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.
Enjoyed this article? Read Hips In Balance – Correcting Asymmetrical Flexibility
My 13 year old son plays baseball and pitches. I was always afraid of him pitching, because of all the stories I’ve read about pitching injuries. Thankfully he had an skilled pitching coach at a young age, so he was trained properly and has been injury free thus far. I introduced the balls to my son and he LOVES rolling on the balls! I recently have been helping him specifically roll out his hips and we have noticed that he has a much better performance and range of motion on the field (pitching and batting. ) Thanks for the article…….forwarding it to his coaches!
So great to be reminded that the body is one connected piece of living machinery. We see the same thing in golf…hip range of motion or lack of strength manifests itself in a series of common swing fault characteristics…where the arms/shoulders often try to make up for it. The take home for any of us is not only to focus on areas of injury/pain…out entire body needs care and attention. Sure we can stress areas that need for TLC…but if we ignore the other places…they’ll soon be knocking at our door looking for some loving or screaming for divorce.
Yes! I rolled my glutes and wow did the ROM in my shoulders ever feel better!
so interesting! i think this hip-arm connection can be applied really heavily to other throwing and one-armed sports out there
This is a great article for new pitchers coming into Baseball and Baseball coaches. From a young age, children want to throw hard fast pitches and without a coach that has an understanding of the mechanics and where the “power” in your pitches comes from (hips and legs) …this type of repetative strain can be very painful in later years.
Article was fabulous. There are so many things that our hips affect and people do not even realize it. It is so amazing how everything in the body is connected in some way, shape or form. When one part of the body is tight, something else is definitely going to be affected in one way or another. Thanks for a great read!
What a great article. its makes sense to make use of the hips when you think about it, but I can see why people could be a little thrown off. I am excited to share this information with some friends that have teenagers playing baseball.
Thanks for this information about the connection of the hips to the elbow. Do you know of any similar research connecting hip range of motion and shoulder problems? I was recently talking to an old friend who mentioned that he has a tough time throwing a football these days due to limitations and pain in his shoulders. At the time, I started thinking about shoulder exercises to suggest, but now I’m thinking about the hips too!
Wow! How awesome that they’ve realized this connection. Hopefully they’re making all the teams aware of this. I continue to be fascinated by these connections in the body. I can only imagine the look on the players faces- Hips?!? Another great example of where rolling on the Yoga Tune Up therapy balls could help, as they really make people aware of those body blind spots.
Amazing how such a small ligament can take that much pressure. Wow 1000 pounds of force on the UCL!, just from having immobile hips!
What an interesting read. I am amazed at how we can walk around in a body everyday and lose sight of how everything is connected. It just makes so much sense that an emphasis one part of the body would have direct reaction somewhere else. Great work, sounds like there will be a lot more happy pitchers out in the world work their hips.
Preventing an injury is always the best choice. I will be reading the Science Daily article and passing it along to the coaches at my kid’s high school along with your blog. I’m looking forward to reading your Friday post!
It’s so amazing how everything is connected even hips to elbow.
Fascinating blog. It makes so much sense that the mobility in the hips would affect the way a pitcher throws the ball. It must be incredibly important for them to focus on their hips to find balance from side to side.