With the World Series beginning this week, unless you pitch for the Red Sox or the Cardinals, you should have shut the throwing down for the year. At any level of competition, the pitcher should have approximately 3 months of “active rest” per year. This is a period of strength and conditioning in which you prepare yourself physically to go back to pitching. Performing other physical activities and reestablishing strength, flexibility and endurance should be the main component of this performance phase.
For those players who are still in the game, good pitching form is going to be essential in finishing their season successfully and without injury. At the Hospital for Special Surgery Tisch Performance Center, we offer video analysis for pitchers at every level of competition. I was proud to collaborate with Rob Semerano, former professional pitcher and current owner of baseball academy Big League Talent, on the design of our analysis. Programs such as ours can detect throwing and pitching mechanics that may lead to injury while identifying factors the athlete can modify to improve velocity, control, and consistency.
The recommendations that we make are based on our experience with the many competitive and amateur pitchers that we have observed and analyzed. These guidelines have been established to both improve performance and reduce the risk of injury:
- As you are in the set position, you should be balanced and relaxed. This will allow all of your muscles to fire efficiently. Tension does not provide any advantage.
- As you begin your windup, you should have a nice high leg kick and your body should be well balanced over your back leg with the knee flexed slightly.
- As you begin your takeaway, your hands and upper body should continue to be “quiet” and relaxed to avoid any excess tension.
- As you drive toward the plate, you should stay balanced with your shoulders staying square over your hips. Not leaning forward or falling backwards.
- Your front foot should land slightly closed to home plate. As your hips open up to the plate your upper body should stay closed. This allows you to store more energy. Think of stretching a rubber band.
- When you follow through, have a flat back and a long arm path. This allows your larger body parts and larger muscles to absorb stress from your throwing arm.
Michael Levinson, Physical Therapist and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, is a Clinical Supervisor at the James M. Benson Sports Rehabilitation Center at Hospital for Special Surgery. Michael is on the faculty of Columbia University School of Physical Therapy. He has published numerous chapters and articles on Sports Medicine Rehabilitation, and has lectured extensively on various subjects regarding the shoulder, elbow, knee and ankle. Michael serves as physical therapist for the New York Mets Baseball Club. He has been a consultant to numerous youth, high school, collegiate and professional athletes.