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Sunday May 29, 2011 2:10 am

Asking why we don’t know more about pitching injuries




Posted by Adrien Griffin Categories: Athletes, Injuries, MLB

Stephen StrasburgEvery year, teams lose pitchers to the disabled list due to arm injuries. It’s inevitable. In 2010 alone, teams averaged using 20 pitchers over the course of the season. Whether it’s fatigue due to overworking, shoulder muscle tears or busted elbows that require Tommy John Surgery, pitchers continue to go down and we still have no realistic clue why it’s happening.

Decades ago, four-man rotations were the norm and complete games were expected. Now, pitchers are babied throughout their careers with the hopes that they won’t get hurt, but teams seem more inclined to rebuild a broken arm rather than try to prevent injuries in the first place. In the last five years, more than $1 billion has been lost to injury time for pitchers, but less than one percent of that total has been spent on researching why these injuries occur.

A common thing heard about players coming back from Tommy John Surgery is that their arms are stronger. But what are they comparing this to? They’re looking at pitchers who either have already injured themselves and don’t yet know how badly, or are on the verge of an injury, and therefore are not pitching to their peak effectiveness. Then when they heal, we’re told they’re stronger. Of course they are! But really, if you take any pitcher and give him a year off to do nothing but work out, isn’t it likely he would come back stronger?

Pitchers don’t seem to trust their stuff as much as they used to. They try to nibble on the black or mix up their pitches a lot; putting excessive strain on their arms. As a result, pitch counts are higher, inning totals are lessened and injuries aren’t being prevented. But with the bigger, stronger hitters of today, pitchers need to become bigger and stronger as well, perhaps to a point where their arms can’t take it. But until somebody decides to seriously put some money into finding out why pitchers are breaking down the way they are, the disabled lists will continue to be home to several of the game’s best.

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