We’ve all heard the statement that hitting a baseball is the hardest thing to do in sports, but have you heard that pitching a baseball is one of the most unnatural moves in all of sports? The fact that so many Detroit Tigers pitchers are suffering from injuries is proof that this is true.
The explosive nature of pitching creates stress on the joints, especially the rotator cuff of the shoulder and the hinge joint of the elbow. Injuring these joints can be devastating for the future of a Major League pitcher. But, other parts of the body are vulnerable, too.
For example, the Detroit Tigers utility pitcher Alex Wilson is currently rehabing from a strain to his latissimus dorsi and Daniel Norris is waiting for his three spinal process fractures to heal. Blaine Hardy is now sitting out the rest of spring training because he has shoulder soreness due to internal impingement. The fact that these injuries actually have occurred speak volumes about the damage that pitching does to the human body.
As professional baseball pitchers, throwing the ball overhand is their bread and butter. They are hired to throw from the mound on a rotation with the goal of helping their team win. When they cannot pitch, it creates a serious inconvenience for the rest of the team. The injuries also raise several questions:
Do these injuries mean that the pitchers are not taking care of themselves? Or does it mean the team trainers are failing? Are the injuries the fault of the pitching coaches? Are the pitchers throwing too many pitchers?
One possibility could be that the pitchers are not familiar with their own body’s reactions to pitching. When asked about the tenderness he was feeling, Hardy replied: “I’ve been feeling it for a little bit. Most people could probably tell by the way I was throwing. I thought I was just building up strength and it was normal soreness. But I did it for three weeks and finally I hit a point where, you know what, it’s not getting better.”
Hardy’s response is unsettling. He should know the difference between sore, overused muscles and impingement. Or, at least the trainers and coaches should. He should have been sitting out for several games, instead – he continued to irritate the problem.
In some cases, the pitching training can cause injury – especially when players push their training to the next level. According to Medline, spinal fractures like Norris’s “are uncommon, except in high-speed collision sports such as auto racing and skiing. In other contact sports in which the athlete is exposed to direct blows, forceful rotation, flexion, and compression, fractures of the transverse processes, spinous processes, facets, vertebral bodies, and endplates are uncommon.”
Norris’s back injury was caused by a direct blow to his back. According to the latest information provided by the Detroit Free Press, Norris’s injury was a result of falling while jumping down from a 57-inch box jump. He was successful with the box jump, but he landed on his back on the jump down. The force of the fall fractured three of his spinal processes. He blamed himself for the injury and said: “In the end, my own competitiveness just kind of bit me in the butt.”
It is good to know that he did not injure his back pitching. But, there are still some questions about what happened after the fall: Why was he pitching after this injury? Why didn’t the trainers look into the injury more deeply before his last start?
Do pitchers need more rest between seasons? Do trainers need to learn to recognize symptoms faster? Do young (Little League and prep players) need to throw even fewer pitches ? Is it time for the media to focus on placement of a pitch rather than the speed of a pitch?
There are simply too many questions about the injuries of Detroit Tigers pitchers and not enough answers.