What do the following pitchers have in common?
- Kyle Drabek
- Drew Hutchison
- Luis Perez
- Sergio Santos
- Dustin McGowan
- Jesse Litch
If you follow the Toronto Blue Jays, you probably already know the answer; they have each suffered major injuries - some season ending - this past season, with McGowan and Litch being frought with major injuries on multiple occasions.
With this recent string of arm injuries plaguing the Toronto Blue Jays' pitchers, I have been asked by many of my athletes and parents what I thought was going on. I gave it some thought and decided it was likely a philosophical stance throughout the entire Blue Jays' system.
My hypothesis: That training and coaching philisophies contribute to arm problems. This was strengthened when watching a Jays' game this year when I witnessed a clip of Ricky Romero doing "towel work" with Jays' pitching coach Bruce Walton. I thought to myself "Are you kidding me? You won’t fix anything with a towel in your hand, and you’ll only increase chance of injury!" Towels are often used to try and increase extension but only serve to have athletes reach further and cause the elbow to hyperextend (advocates include Mark Prior & Kerry Wood).
Ricky Romero’srecent problem with leaving the ball up in the strike zone has nothing to do with his arm; it has to do with rotation and finish, particularly continuing as, and after the ball is released. (On a side note, to increase extension the body must continue to rotate (hips and torso move the arm and not the other way around) to provide an efficient deceleration, not reach out with a towel in hand) Many Jays' pitchers do a poor job of this on average. Some may ask "Why is a pitching coach in the big leagues instructing millions of dollars worth of talent to do something that is not safe or suggested?" The answer to that question is complicated and could be any number of different things:
- They are teaching what they've taught for many years, information that is often outdated and not supported by science or research.
- Past results have supported methodology.
- Change might effect empoyment status.
My feeling is that the main reason people coach a certain way is because it’s the way they’ve always done it, and they’ve had degrees of success. However, the story of arm injuries over the last 30 years tells a very different story. With technological advancements in the last 30 years we have been able to see, study and understand throwing stresses better, but arm injuries still continue to rise at an alarming rate. To change this trend coaches can’t continue to do what they’ve always done because it isn’t working, certainly not from an injury prevention perspective!
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, and baseball in my estimation has been insane for a while now. Baseball is indeed at a crossroads, with half of its mind stuck in the past and other half looking toward the future. It’s time to figure out what side you are on.
Thank you for reading and I look forward to your comments.
Ryan Armstrong - Head Pitching Coach, The Baseball Zone
With Canada Day weekend rapidly approaching it's a good time to reflect on the state of the game in our country. Let's count a few highlights:
- With the recent success of Canadians like Joey Votto, Brett Lawrie, and John Axford (former TBZ employee), it seems that more Canadians are getting the opportunity to play the game at the highest levels.
- This year alone Canada had 26 (62 total since 2011) players taken in June’s MLB draft, 10 of whom have already signed pro contracts.
- Canada also has about 700 student athletes playing baseball and studying south of the border at US Colleges and Universities.
- Even Canadian collegiate baseball programs are catching up, with the first ever CIS player being drafted this year (Shaun Valeriote - Brock Badgers - Toronto Blue Jays).
It certainly seems that over the last 10 years Canadians are taking their passion for training and hard work onto the ball field. Some may say we are at a disadvantage compared to our southern counterparts due to our climate, but one thing I know about Canadians is that we never back down form a challenge. Our athletes often travel great distances to receive premium training and competition and do so without hesitation. I think tenacity is one of our defining characteristics and it shows when our guys play tired, hurt, out of position, or in different climates. I think it’s that "never back down" attitude that takes our players to the next level.
From the grass roots its seems that kids are more into baseball than in past years and are devoting time and resources to development. Canadian kids are getting a better understanding of what it takes to play the game at the highest levels. I am proud to be a part of this movement and even prouder to see it occurring.
Thank you for reading. I’m interested to know what you think, so please feel free to leave comments and why you are proud to be a Canadian baseball fan this weekend.
Ryan Armstrong - The Baseball Zone
Obesity in our children is becoming a national crisis. Research indicates that more Canadian children are overweight and obese than in the past. In 1978/79, 12% of 2-17 year olds were overweight, and 3% were obese - a combined overweight/obesity rate of 15%. By 2004, the overweight rate for this age group was 18% and 8% were obese - a combined rate of 26%.
One recent study concluded that obesity is linked to 41 separate adverse health outcomes. This includes excess risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis, depression and cancer!
The good news is that the solution is in our own hands. Although overweight and obese parents are more likely to have kids who are overweight partly on the basis of a genetic predisposition to put on extra pounds, to a much larger extent kids who are overweight are simply copying the lifestyle of their overweight parents. The reality is that this can be controlled. Recognizing the problem is the first step.
Research shows that the longer a child remains obese, the more likely he will become an obese adult. According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, weight gain in children is due primarily to lack of physical activity. To reverse this trend, children should become more active and eat properly. Active, healthy children have a better chance of becoming active, healthy adults.
Out of all the different athletes I work with, young baseball players by far have the highest levels of body fat compared to other athletes the same age competing in sports such as Hockey, Basketball, and Soccer. You can't improve your cardio and heart and lung capacity playing baseball the way you can playing the previous sports mentioned. The pace of the play is much slower and energy system demands are completely different. Many baseball parents have started getting their children into strength training programs here at The Baseball Zone to help educate them on proper training methods and healthy eating habits. That is a great start!
Heres a couple more quick tips for your young athletes (From EatRight Ontario):
- Encourage your children to be more active
- Limit the amount of television they can watch and the time they can spend playing video and computer games
- Organize family outings, such as hiking, biking, swimming, and skiing
- Encourage your children to participate in any sports they enjoy
- Encourage your children to develop healthy eating habits and enjoy healthy foods
- Teach them about eating well, and tell them how important balance, moderation and variety are in their diet
- Explain how having regular meals and snacks more often is a healthier way to eat
- Set a good example yourself - be active and develop healthy eating habits
Start with a few of these and you'll start seeing differences right away!
Rick Boutilier, Head Strength & Conditioning Coach - The Baseball Zone & SST Mississauga
Breaking the Mysteries
One of the biggest questions parents ask me is "Isn't strength training harmful for my child?"
Strength training is, in fact, healthy and beneficial for your child. Studies conducted on the subject have been conclusive in finding that a properly constructed, structured and supervised program is a safe way to increase strength and endurance for sport, improve posture and reduce chances of injury during game play.
Here are the 3 greatest myths about strength training:
Myth One: Strength training will stunt my growth
There is no evidence to support this! A study of Olympic lifters showed that 74% of them were the tallest in their families! Some of these athletes had been strength training since grade school. Strength training is proven to prevent osteoporosis in all types of people, young and old. Strength training not only strengthens muscles, tendons, and ligaments but has a profound effect on the skeletal system and aids in bone growth.
Myth Two: Strength training will damage my growth plates
With a proper, supervised strength training program growth plate injuries are rare and almost unheard of - it actually is one of the safest sports to compete in. In fact, research has shown that kids who do not strength train get injured more in their sport than the ones who do. When children are injured in sport activities it's usually because their bodies were not ready for the physical demands of the sport.
Myth Three: Strength training for a young child has no benefit
This one drives me crazy!! Are you kidding me? How about increased self esteem and self confidence for kids who strength train. Strength training also leads to a significantly lesser chance of a child becoming depressed.
The National Strength and Conditioning Association, the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine, and the American Academy of Paediatrics suggest the following benefits of a supervised resistance training program for kids:
- Improved coordination, body awareness, and balance (especially before the age of puberty as this is a time that the body's nervous system can be hardwired properly)
- Increased performance; how can a coach not like this concept? Make an athlete faster, stronger, and more powerful...what coach wouldn't want that?
- Improved heart and lung function
- Healthy body composition (more muscle burns more fat calories) - for every one pound of muscle gained you burn an extra 50Kcal per day.
How can you argue with that?!
So for parents who still wish to ask the question "Is strength training harmful for my child?" the answer is simply "No, strength training is not harmful for your child". So let's reduce the video games and unhealthy snack foods and get your kids into a strength training program. They will thank you some day!!
Head Strength Coach
The Baseball Zone & SST Mississauga