Perform Like a Pro: How to Identify and Prevent Throwing Arm Stress | Youth1

Perform Like a Pro: How to Identify and Prevent Throwing Arm Stress

Injuries in baseball was a hot topic this year, with high profile arms placed on the disabled list, the continuing conversation of pitch counts, inning limits and performance training raged on. With the help of software, slow motion analysis and wearable technology, we can track arm speed and joint forces in real time. Honestly it is an amazing time in baseball performance enhancement, thanks in large part to technology and a growing body of information on just how brutal the throwing motion can be on the body.

Today we are going to review some important points related to throwing and review some positions (good and bad) within the pitching delivery that may increase your risk of injury.


At the highest competitive level, our professional athletes have access to pitching coaches on a daily basis. There is constant monitoring of mechanics and discussions on how the pitcher is feeling, what the catchers are seeing, etc. It is easy to lose efficient rhythm and body timing which may alter mechanics and increase injury risk. Below are some common positions that have been found to increase elbow stress during the throwing motion:

Early Upper Torso Rotation: Researchers have provided insight that if the front shoulder opens to the target prior to the hips rotating, you will have increased elbow and shoulder stress. At the major league level this has been associated with a 1.7 times greater risk of shoulder or elbow surgery.

Excessive Shoulder Horizontal Abduction (Throwing arm lags behind the body): This drastically increases stress on the front of your shoulder, creating laxity and instability.

Excessive Trunk Tilt Away from your Throwing Arm: This increases elbow and shoulder rotational forces. Stress on both the elbow and shoulder increases for every 10 degrees of lateral torso tilt beyond 30 degrees.

A Stride that is too SHORT, OPEN, or CLOSED: A short stride may increase distraction forces. A closed stride may lead to excessive lateral torso tilt. An open stride may lead to early trunk rotation and a lag of the throwing arm as referenced above.

Changes in Pitching Mechanics from Fatigue: A study in 2015 found a group of 16 year old pitchers who threw 100 pitches in a single outing demonstrated decreased shoulder/hip separation, decreased ball speed, and dramatic stride leg knee flexion at ball release.


Lat Stretch: This is a great way to move into deep shoulder flexion, a direction that is typically lost in overhead athletes. Be sure to keep you neck straight. You want to provide the stretch through your lat (you should feel it under your arm pit). You should not feel a pinching in your mid back and you should not extend your spine during the stretch.

Perform 3 sets of 30 seconds.

Open Books: This is a great, low-level exercise to really encourage shoulder/hip separation. Be sure to tie your breathing into this one. When your hands are together (closed book) take a deep breath in from you belly. When your hands separate (open book) exhale completely. Focus on pushing your shoulder blade towards the ground, not the back of your hand.

Perform 3 sets of 12-15 per side


There is no doubt that throwing velocity is a valuable asset to your success at a pitcher. It is important to keep in mind that as our understanding of efficient pitching mechanics and the ability to throw harder has progressed, our basic human physiology has not. Research, although not definitive, has cited cases where increased throwing velocity increased torque and stress on the elbow, specifically the UCL. Therefore, it is important to develop a strong foundation of strength and balance in the legs, hips and trunk as well as the rotator cuff. Additionally, while we tend to focus on acceleration, arm speed, etc. your training should equally (if not more) include deceleration exercises to slow your arm down after ball release.

Medicine Ball Single Arm, Deceleration Catch: You really want to stay as long as you can throughout the entire motion. Almost exaggerating your throwing motion, you want to have some torso rotation and a finish similar to after ball release during your throwing motion. Using your entire body will help reduce stress on the throwing arm.

Perform 3 sets of 6-8 repetitions. 

Written by Stepthen Gamma

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