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Written on March 18, 2009 at 7:45 am, by Eric Cressey
Q: I know that you’re tops when it comes to keeping baseball guys (especially pitchers) healthy and performing at the top level. How would your approach to training baseball players in general, and pitchers more specifically, differ when working with somewhat similar athletes such as:
(a) football quarterbacks
(b) swimmers other than backstrokers
(c) swimmers specializing in the back stroke
I realize there would be obvious differences, especially for C, since that is actually the opposite of pitching, so I’d love to hear some of your general thoughts on this.
A: This is actually a great question. I guess it’s one of those things you do subconsciously and then think about after the fact. I’m assuming you are referring to the shoulder and elbow demands in particular, so I’ll start with that.
Training football quarterbacks and pitchers would be virtually identical in terms of demands on the hips, ankles, and shoulders. Anecdotal experience tells me that there would be a higher correlation between hip dysfunction and shoulder/elbow problems in pitchers than in quarterbacks, though.
Swimmers would be similar at the shoulder, but I don’t see the same kind of correlation b/t hip and shoulder dysfunction. Obviously, though, issues like scapular stability, thoracic spine range-of-motion, and tissue quality would all be present in all three populations.
Backstrokers would have comparable scapular stabilization demands, but different glenohumeral rotation patterns. With them, you assess total shoulder rotation and go from there (this is my strategy with everyone, but it just warrants extra mention in this discussion).
Above all, you’ve got to realize that while you might see trends in different athletic populations, each one is still unique, so assessment tells you what you need to know. For instance, I have a few pro pitchers throwing well over 90mph, and from looking at their shoulders, you’d never know they had ever thrown a baseball in their lives. At initial testing (i.e., right after the long season ended), the total motion among my eleven pro pitchers from this past off-season ranged from 133 degrees to 186 degrees. The guy with 186 degrees actually had more external rotation (135 degrees) than the least “lax” guy had in total motion!
So, a guy with a 3/4 arm slot is going to have different adaptive changes than a guy who is more over-the-top or sidearm – and you can certainly carry those variations across the board to different throwing styles in football, and the wide variety of shoulders you’ll see in a swimming population that might be proficient in more than one stroke.
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