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Batting & Pitching Blogs

Tommy John Surgery What Is The Problem

Posted on August 7, 2016 at 9:15 PM

Seems like almost everyday ESPN is talking about another pitcher out for the year to get Tommy John surgery or coming back this year from the surgery.  They have many segments talking about why there is such a rise in the number of pitchers with sore arms needing the surgery.  On ESPN Sports Science: Tommy John Epidemic, they say there were 70 Tommy John surgeries performed from 1990 to 1999. In 2014 there were 80 plus surgeries by September.  These arm problems don't start at the pro level, they start at the youth level.   The big problem is now many more youth pitchers and even position players are having arm injuries.  Why is there such a rise in pitchers of all ages getting sore arms, needing to rest their arm or even needing surgery?


Many people on the ESPN segments say to help prevent this is to avoid overuse of the arm.  While less innings and pitches could help some it doesn't fix the real problem.   Almost every pitcher in both baseball and fastpitch softball throws mainly with their arm, that is the problem.   Pitchers and position players are learning bad throwing mechanics that make them throw mainly with their arm.  I see this every day with new students from 8 years old and up.  Last week I had two catchers come in because they couldn't throw the ball to second very well and their arms were hurting.  They were from different schools but were taught the same bad throwing cues.   


I am working with way too many young players that  come in with sore arms and even a couple who have already had Tommy John surgery.  They come in for a lesson to see if there is any way they can learn to pitch or throw without pain.  When using mostly the arm there is too much stress put on the elbow and shoulder.   When they keep throwing this way for a period of time it will cause arm problems, as they get older and try to throw harder the problems become worse.  This is true for both pitchers and position players in baseball and fastpitch softball.


I video all new students pitching, throwing and/or hitting.  We talk about the pitching cues they have been taught.  I hear so many different cues and almost everyone of them (99%) makes a player throw mainly with their arm.  I have them warm up and throw about ten pitches to see their mechanics and video them.   Sadly, some of them will tell me their elbow and shoulder are already starting to get sore.  I then show them and their parents on the video how these cues are making them throw mainly with the arm and helping cause their problems.

The top 7 bad pitching cues being taught that help cause arm problems are


  • As you start the windup and the stride knee comes up, balance on your back leg
  • As your front foot hits the ground have the ball looking at second base and your glove pointed to home plate, in a power T
  • Take your chest to your glove to go forward
  • Twist or rotate your hips
  • Have your elbow go above the shoulder as your arm comes forward
  • Snap your wrist at release for more speed
  • Finish down (pick up dirt)


These pitching cues make you throw mainly with your arm. The problem is these are taught by almost every baseball coach, instructor, at pitching camps and by other parents.    DO NOT do any of these pitching cues or any others you hear that make you throw mainly with your arm.

I then show the student and their parents the difference in their mechanics and the mechanics of the very best pitchers in Major League baseball and Team USA fastpitch softball.  They are amazed to see the pros are doing almost the complete opposite of what they had been taught.  This is true with every new pitcher and position player that comes in for a lesson.


The way to fix the real problem is for baseball and fastpitch softball players, young as possible, to learn how to use the body correctly when pitching and throwing.  When players throw more with his or her arm they can feel the added tension in the elbow and shoulder. Most students think it's normal to feel this tension, they are use to their arms getting sore.  This should not happen!


The key is when they first feel this tension they need to know how to easily make the adjustment to get out of the arm and back into the body before it becomes sore.  A player being able to do this correctly is very important.  There is a big difference in the mechanics between pitchers that have pitched many years with no arm trouble and ones that have arm problems.


If you are currently getting a sore arm or want to prevent this by learning how to use the body correctly call Mike Sedberry for more information at 304-722-6393. 


Good luck and hope everyone has fun this season.


Categories: Baseball pitching

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