When it comes to sports like baseball, softball, and tennis, the idea that throwing harder or with more velocity inevitably leads to elbow injuries has become a prevailing myth. While it’s true that high-velocity throwing can pose a risk to elbow health due to the high loads that are placed on joints, with proper preventive measures, athletes can protect their bodies and enjoy the benefits of enhanced performance without succumbing to injury.

“The common belief that throwing harder or with more velocity means increased medial elbow stress is getting squashed right now,” said Dr. Chris McKenzie with McKenzie Sports Physical Therapy. “While throwing harder isn’t necessarily bad, it is important to understand why a pitcher throwing 95 can have less inner elbow strain than a pitcher who throws 89-90mph.”

Approximately two-thirds of all injuries to pitchers affect the shoulder or elbow. Pitchers, in particular, have an upper injury incidence rate almost three times higher than other positions played on the field. This higher risk should remind pitchers to be cautious and aware of their bodies’ limits and to take preventative measures to protect their bodies.

Proper mechanics play a pivotal role in injury prevention. This applies to any activity or sport but is especially important for athletes, who should prioritize developing and maintaining sound throwing mechanics to ensure the forces exerted during high-velocity throws are more evenly distributed across the body.

Going back to McKenzie’s comparison, to understand the differences between pitchers, he shared, “A full kinematic study with body markers showing where the body and arm are in space should be run simultaneously as a medial elbow force study.”

Understanding what parts of the body aren’t working properly is crucial to injury prevention. 

Working with knowledgeable coaches and trainers and a physical therapist specializing in upper extremity issues is critical. In addition, a comprehensive strength and conditioning program is essential for protecting the elbow joint and providing crucial support and stability, reducing the likelihood of overuse injuries. 

Dr. McKenzie’s book Unleash Your Pitching Velocity aims to help diagnose and correct body imbalances so people can throw harder with better command and control. In his practice, he sees many athletes with poor neuromuscular control and balance issues, as well as athletes with weak hips and core. Weaknesses and imbalances can lead to injury. 

“Pitchers want to be the star of their team and get more outs,” said Dr. McKenzie. “The notion that throwing harder inevitably leads to elbow injuries is dispelled once an athlete understands that preventative measures can effectively safeguard against injuries.”

With a proactive and comprehensive approach to injury prevention, athletes can unleash the full potential of their throwing abilities while preserving their elbow health for the long term. 

Dr. McKenzie and the McKenzie Sports Physical Therapy team are hosting a baseball event on Saturday, June 15th, at their office in Manayunk. Visit our website or call the office for more details and to sign up.