Spring is in the air, which means we are in baseball season! I have had a blast this year working with the amazing baseball players on UCLA Men’s Baseball Team and at Performance Fitness for Athletes in Upland, CA. Among them, I’ve spent some extra time with pitchers who are often concerned about the heavy emphasis on their throwing arm. However, the topic of conversation with pitchers is not only the importance of taking care of their body holistically, but to pay particular attention to their hips. “Hips?” they ask with furrowed eyebrows and a hint of hesitance in their voice. Yes, HIPS! I realize that many players pay so much attention to their throwing arm, they don’t consider that not caring for their whole body can have serious consequences on the health of the arm they are so concerned about. To shed light on the connection between hips and throwing arm health, let’s discuss Tommy John Surgery (TJS).
What is TJS? TJS is a surgical procedure that “fixes” a torn ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in the elbow by replacing it with a forearm tendon. The elbow UCL is a triangular shaped ligament that runs from the medial epicondyle of the humerus to the coronoid process and olecranon process of the ulna. I know this may all sound like gibberish, but take a look at the photo on your right to better acquaint yourself with your elbow UCL.
What are the implications of a torn UCL and Tommy John Surgery for pitchers? During a pitch, about 1,000 pounds of pressure per square inch can be placed on the elbow UCL. This can be affected by the mechanics of the pitch, which will vary with each person’s technique. Basically, at a particular point in the pitch, stress pulls the bones in the elbow apart and the elbow UCL is what keeps them together, stabilizing them. Research by the University of Florida found correlation between hip range of motion and risk to a pitcher’s arm. Pitchers with a limited range of motion in their hip tend to place more torque on stress on their elbow, which can cause a faster degeneration or injury to the UCL and lead to TJS.
While TJS has been found to be extremely successful with a high rate of returning to pitching post-surgery, why not try to prevent the decline in performance that inevitably occurs pre-surgery with an elbow UCL tear, along with the pain and the give or take 20 months of recovery time? Well, there is no “fix” or guaranteed approach to prevent an elbow UCL tear, however, Yoga Tune Up® is here to be used as one of your “go-to” tools to enhance and maintain hip mobility to promote overall health for pitching longevity. Tune in on Friday for my favorite YTU technique to improve hip range of motion!
- Gillespie, Catherine, and Jaime Cowder. “Tommy John Surgery.” Tommy John Surgery. Advance Healthcare Network, 1 July 2003. Web. 10 May 2015.
- Biel, Andrew. Trail Guide to the Body. 3rd ed. Boulder, CO: of Discovery., 2001. 76-100. Print.
- University of Florida. “In pitching injuries, the elbow is connected to the hip.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 April 2014.
- Kacprowicz, Robert, and Eric Chumbley. “Ulnar Collateral Ligament Injury .” Ulnar Collateral Ligament Injury. Medscape, 18 Mar. 2014. Web. 10 May 2015.
- Erickson, Brandon, Anil Gupta, and Joshua Harris. “Rate of Return to Pitching and Performance After Tommy John Surgery in Major League Baseball Pitchers.” Rate of Return to Pitching and Performance After Tommy John Surgery in Major League Baseball Pitchers. Am J Sports Med, 1 Mar. 2014. Web. 11 May 2015.