Hips Pivotal in Avoiding Elbow Injuries While Pitching

FRIDAY May 16, 2014, 2014 -- Pitchers' elbow injuries appear to be linked to their hip movement, according to a new study.

The finding could lead to new ways to reduce the risk of elbow injuries by altering hip motion, said Dr. Kevin Farmer, an assistant professor in the department of orthopaedics and rehabilitation at the University of Florida College of Medicine in Gainesville.

He and his colleagues analyzed the throwing style of seven Division 1 college pitchers and concluded that a limited range of motion in a pitcher's hips could be a risk factor for elbow injuries.

"Most studies have looked at shoulders and elbows. While very few studies have looked at lower extremities, some have done early work looking at range of motion, but no one has really correlated hips with the risk of injury to the elbow," Farmer said in a university news release.

The study was presented at a recent meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Research results presented at meetings are generally considered preliminary until they've been published in peer-reviewed journals.

But, how could a pitcher's hip motion affect their elbows? It helps to understand the steps involved in a pitch. To begin, a pitcher starts by shifting the weight on his feet, and then lifts one knee -- the one that's opposite the throwing arm -- which means the thigh is parallel to the ground. At the same time, the pitcher brings the ball behind his shoulder, starting the pitch. The pitcher then simultaneously rotates the throwing hand over the shoulder and starts bringing the raised knee down. That step forward helps give power to the pitch.

If the pitcher's alignment is off in any of these steps, the elbow is often the area most stressed. By examining the pitcher's throws, the researchers saw that pitchers might compensate for a limited range of motion in the hips by putting more pressure on their elbows.

The findings "could open up a whole new line of thought processes and research," Farmer said. "We're going to be able to ask: Is there an associated risk of injury down the road with limited hip range of motion, and can we minimize that risk by improving hip range of motion?"

It would be easy for coaches and athletic trainers to help pitchers improve their hip flexibility, according to Farmer. He and his colleagues plan to assess whether a stretching program can improve range of motion in the hip and reduce the risk of elbow injury.

More information

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons offers baseball injury prevention tips.

Posted: May 2014


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