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How to Throw a Safer Fastball (INFOGRAPHIC)

Author: Niki L. Carayannopoulos, DO

Develop Safer Pitching Mechanics

With baseball season upon us, pitchers from middle school to the MLB are looking to improve their speed. And while a great fastball might help win a game, it takes a healthy, sustainable fastball technique to keep winning season after season.

A recent infographic from the Mayo Clinic (reposted in-full below) illustrates the mechanics of a safer fastball. Whether you’ve been on the mound for years or just enjoy the occasional Sunday afternoon pick-up game, this is a brief must-read for all pitchers.

What Happens When a Pitch Is Thrown

  1. Wind-up phase. This is when the body prepares to produce a massive amount of power. The hip rotates, activating the core and lending strength to the pitch. Keeping the foot in a neutral position can reduce stress on the joints.
  2. Early cocking phase. In this phase, the foot strides forward, contributing nearly 50% of the total pitch power. The hands break apart, dropping down and out, drawing up into the power position with arm back, elbow up, and ball facing back.
  3. Late cocking phase. The hips and torso rotate while the arm stretches up to its maximum external rotation; this places heavy loads (about 55 lbs. of force) on the elbow, which can strain the elbow ligament.
  4. Acceleration phase. This is where it all comes together: accumulated power from the hips, legs and upper body combine to deliver the fastball. The ball goes from its maximum external rotation to release in just 50 milliseconds. When this occurs, the pitching arm is moving forward from 0 to 7500º/second – that’s 20 full revolutions per second!
  5. Deceleration phase. At this point the body attempts to dissipate the forward energy and momentum. The force of the pitch results in 1 1/3x the pitcher’s bodyweight attempting to dislocate the shoulder at the point of release.

Throw a Safer Pitch by Limiting Your Pitches

One of the best things baseball pitchers can do to protect their shoulder is to limit their pitch count. According to the infographic below, pitchers report a 52% increase in shoulder pain between 75-99 pitches per game. When pitching over 100 innings per year, pitchers are 3.5x more likely to be injured.

Other things players can do to keep their shoulder healthy include:

  • Engage in year-round strengthening and stretching exercises, which include the rotator cuff, shoulder blade stabilization, core strength and balance.
  • Warm-up before pitching (arm circles, arm pumps and bands).
  • Cool-down after pitching.
  • Use video analysis to observe the mechanics of your pitch.
  • Rest your shoulder for three consecutive months in the off-season.

Shoulder Injury from Pitching? See a Houston Sports Doc

Have a pitching injury? To see a Houston sports medicine doctor, call (713) 756-5546. You can also schedule your appointment online.

Please consult with your physician before undertaking any form of medical treatment or adopting any exercise program or dietary guidelines.