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Arm Care

  • Disappointing Results from Training? : By Ron Wolforth

    For most of us, one-size-fits-all programs and programming have always been an undeniable fact of life. We had a coach, mentor, or teacher who followed a specific philosophy, recipe or process and simply hoped for the best.

     

    After all, most systems are better than no system at all, so we quietly accepted reality and moved forward.

     

    We intuitively realized that some coaches, mentors, teachers, philosophies and/or processes fit some individuals far better than others.  Many have come to grasp the fact that such a universal reality will never completely go away.  Perfect just does not exist.

     

    That is the reason many of us are unconsciously in the constant search for a better “fit” for ourselves, our children, our family, our teams and/or our organizations.

     

    But as far as physical training is concerned, technology and the evolution of thought behind training has evolved considerably in just the last 10 years.

     

    We are just now fully grasping the incredible benefits of customization and hyper-personalization of our athlete’s training protocols.  In fact, when we step back and look at it from a distance, such a process actually makes perfect sense.  Instead of forcing each unique athlete to conform to a rigid choreography and a universal cookie cutter model of training, we go through a four-step process that, at the Ranch Consortium, we refer to as Assess, Categorize, Customize, and Prioritize.

    Without getting too abstruse and deep into training methodology, here is why such a process is a gigantic leap forward.

     

    The science behind this is good.  Whenever we take a group of dynamic systems… such as a collection of baseball pitchers… and expose them to a strict process or protocol… such as a one-size-fits-all weighted ball program… the results are fairly predictable.

     

    Some flourish, most show very little change, and some get injured or go backwards.

    For a vast majority of the history of training athletes, this was simply standard operating procedure.

     

    It was great if your athlete was on the “flourish side” of the bell curve and it was unfortunate if he happened to get injured or went backwards.

     

    The authors of the particular “process” would champion and highlight their successes and for the most part ignore the failures. (By the way, that certainly included our early days at the Texas Baseball Ranch®.)

     

    If you happened to be on the wrong side of the curve, you often went in search of the next process, hoping that this next one was a better fit.

     

    This went on for years and years.  Nothing to see here, simply keep moving forward.

     

    But slowly things began to change.  Technology improved.  Thinking and understanding evolved.  Some of us in multiple disciplines and arenas of athletic training and performance enhancement rejected the status quo, consensus, conventional thinking and group think.   Thanks to works of Bernstein, Nyman and Bosch, we began to understand “Dynamic SystemsTheory” and how it relates to our athletes individually.

     

    We started down the complex road of hyper-personalization and built training processes which were led not by efficiency, but by the individual constraints of each individual athlete.

     

    In short, we wanted to assist each athlete in overcoming and/or reducing the specific constraint that was MOST limiting or interfering with his performance right now… currently… today!  At the Ranch Consortium we refer to this by its Motor Learning equivalent: A Constraint-Led Approach to Motor Skill Development.

     

    I wrote a whitepaper entitled, “The Case Against Weighted Balls?”  We made it into a short book. If you would like a copy of it, please call or email our office and we will mail you a copy for free: Please let our Office Manager, Anna Dugger, know if you are a player, parent or coach.

    Office- 936-588-6762
    AnnaDugger@TexasBaseballRanch.com

     

    Now to be clear, the title was intended to be provocative.  We in fact believe that over-weighted and underweighted balls as throwing tools are exceptional.  However, they are simply tools.  They are not a silver bullet nor a panacea, and if used incorrectly, they can in fact place athletes at greater risk of injury.

     

    The purpose of my paper was to share our 20-year relationship with the utilization of weighted balls in training so that players, parents and/or coaches would have a better understanding of how to maximize the benefits of weighted ball training while minimizing their risks.

     

    If you are interested in utilizing weighted balls as part of your process, I believe the book is quite helpful and informative.

     

    However, after reading it again for the first time in several months, I realized I omitted a very, very valuable piece of the puzzle and a critical influencer, and I wanted to correct that now.

     

    A huge component of our success has been the assessment phase.  No one single person has been more influential in that regard than Phil Donley.  Not only is Phil one of my most favorite people in the entire world and a wonderful man, he was light years ahead of his time, helping us understand what sound structural assessment entails and how to interpret the testing information.

     

    Today his influence is all over our processes. For those unfamiliar with Phil, here is a little about him:

    Phillip Donley is a retired Colonel U.S. Army Reserve. He was Chief Physical Therapist at Akron City Hospital (1958-1960), Instructor and Assistant Athletic Trainer at West Head Athletic Trainer and Professor of Physical Education at West Chester University (1965-1991). He owned a private Sports Physical Therapy Clinic in West Chester in 1981 to 1995. Since 1997, he has served as a Consultant to the Philadelphia Phillies for 10 years and the Philadelphia Eagles for 5 years. He now treats patients part-time at the West Chester office of Optimum Physical Therapy Associates. He also performs research and clinical care lectures on shoulder and full body kinetic chain topics.

     

    In closing, the primary reason so many people are often disappointed with their training is because their specific training is simply not a great fit.  It may have been a better fit a year ago or it might be a great fit 6 months from now, but right now, there are things that are far more important. It may even be a great fit for your roommate or teammate, but it isn’t for you. 

     

    Getting the wrong plan will at best minimize your gains and at worst ruin or significantly sidetrack your career.

     

    To have the BEST chance of your training having a large positive impact on your performance, you should:

     

    • Assess your current physical structure, mobility/flexibility, strength/strength balance, movements/mechanical efficiency, recovery/ability to bounce back and performance parameters (velocity, command, swing-and-miss stuff).
    • Then Categorize– from those assessments, guide each athlete to the exact area(s) and protocol(s) that they need most at this moment.
    • Then Customize– building a hyper-personalized, holistic plan for the next 8-12 weeks so that each athlete works on the specific areas they need most.
    • Then Prioritize– creating a hierarchy of our process to make certain we hit the most urgent things first.

     

    The best news in all of this is that today in 2020, there is a viable, far more effective way to train than following a mail order program on the internet.  And indeed, sometimes your very career may depend upon it.

     

    Until next time, stay curious and keep fighting the good fight.

     

    – – – – – – – – – – – –

     

    Important TBR Updates

     

    • We have only 2 remaining Elite Pitchers Bootcamps on the summer schedule after this weekend. The August 7-9 is SOLD OUT but there are still spots available in our Labor Day Camp, September 5-7. Due to current COVID-19 state mandates, we have reduced the number of attendees to 2/3’s of out normal 45 cap. For more information on these popular events, please visit www.TexasBaseballRanch.com/events. We are also loosening up our cancellation/change policy so that people can be comfortable in making plans now in the face of current and future uncertainty. **We also have an option for you to extend you bootcamp weekend and stay for an additional week(s) and participate in out “Extended Stay Summer Developmental Program”.

     

    • Would you like to train at the Ranch for a longer period of time this summer? Our “Extended Stay Summer Development Program” is the program for you. We have one session remaining this summer. It is a two week mini session, August 3-13. More information is available at www.texasbaseballranch.com/events/tbr-summer-program/.

     

    • Response to our “Ranch Remote” training option has been exciting. It’s a program for people that would still like to get access to, and ongoing instruction from, the TBR staff but prefer to avoid travel due to the virus. Click here to get more information on this NEW, hyper-personalized training option. The number of participants in this program is limited to 36 so if you’re interested, don’t dealy.

     

    • Like many of you, we have heard the news that many Junior Colleges across the country have cancelled their fall season and in some cases, the entire 2020-2021 athletic season. This obviously is both disappointing and frustrating for many young men. At the Texas Baseball Ranch®, we have decided to put into place a fall training program for those young men who would like to take a ‘gap’ year, focusing on a structured developmental program that will best prepare them for college baseball when it finally does return. Please email info@TexasBaseballRanch.com if you would like more information on this option.

     

    Please call (936)588-6762 or email us: info@texasbaseballranch.com
    for more details or to sign up for any of these options.
  • How We Individualize Workload To Decrease Injury Risk And Maximize Performance Gains : By Randy Sullivan, MPT, CSCS

    To become an elite throwing athlete, you need to throw … a lot.

    Quick, off the top of your head, name me one skill in life where becoming elite at that skill involves …

    NOT DOING THAT SKILL.

    You want to be a great guitar player?

    Sure. 

    Here’s what you do … 

    Don’t play guitar too much.

    Save your bullets.

    Take three months off every year to give your body time to recover.

    You want to be a great chemist?

    Ok, listen up.

    Whatever you do … 

    Don’t do too much chemistry

     

    When you want to do something well, doing that thing a lot seems ridiculously self-evident.

    Yet if you ask medical experts and baseball traditionalists about the key to preventing throwing injuries, that’s exactly what we hear.  

    It stems from what I believe to be a fundamentally flawed assumption — that all throwing injuries are due to OVERUSE.

    When the assumption is that OVERUSE is the cause of injury, the natural course of treatment is UNDERUSE.

    Limit pitch counts.

    Control innings pitched.

    Take 3 months off every year.

    Those were the recommendations, and most of the baseball world fell in lockstep without question.

    Programs around the country implemented the restrictions, but to the experts’ surprise, injury rates continued to rise. 

    When the data showed no impact on injury rates with rest and “overuse” avoidance, the experts doubled down.  

    “They’re not being obedient … not doing what we said they should do.”

    Soon it became political.

    Any coach at any level who allowed a pitcher to go beyond these arbitrary limits was labeled ignorant, irresponsible, reckless, and even abusive.  Governing boards legislated limits that would lead to disciplinary action if breached.

    Coaches and organizations complied. Yet injury rates kept climbing. 

    Let’s face it. We’ve been chasing pitch counts and innings limits for nearly two decades, and it doesn’t seem to have had any influence on slowing the injury rate. Yet, we continue to mandate draconian restrictions.

    It’s mind-boggling, really.

    It defies logic, and the laws of physiology. 

    Davis’s law in physiology states that all human tissue remodels and aligns itself to resist the stress under which it is place. Any tissue with a blood supply is capable of making itself more robust and resistant to injury. However, it must be is exposed to the right stress. The body will always adapt. For positive adaptations, we must add stress to vulnerable tissue. If we withhold stress, we’re sure to get unwanted negative adaptations.

    Send an astronaut into space for 30 days. In the absence of gravity, his body adapts negatively. When he comes down to earth, his bones are brittle, and his muscles are weak because he hasn’t been exposed to stress.

    The irony is apparent.

    In our noble effort to prevent injury by reducing exposure to stress, we may be making our athletes more vulnerable.

    We must add stress.

    But, we must control that stress, adding it slowly, incrementally, over time.

    If we add it too quickly, the tissue will fail. If we add it at high intensity for too long, the body will respond by laying down the most hardened tissue it can muster — bone. The result will be calcifications and/or arthritic spurs. 

    Please understand, I’m not saying workload doesn’t matter.

    There is a reasonable limit to how much an athlete should throw. However, that limit should be determined on a case-by-case basis.

    You see, managing arm health is far deeper and more complex than merely counting pitches. Arm health and performance involves optimizing what my friend Ron Wolforth calls The Six Types of Contributors To Sub-Par Performance and/Or Pain.  

    Here they are shown in their order of importance.

    If types 1 thru 5 are right, the pitcher could (and should) throw a lot.

    If types 1 thru 5 are wrong, 10 pitches may be too much.

    At least 2-3 times per week, we get calls and visits from players whose loving parents are beside themselves.

    “I don’t know how he got hurt. He never went over the pitch count.”

    We understand.  

    Most parents don’t let their son throw too much. However, in many cases, their sons simply aren’t ready to handle even the smallest amount of  workload. They haven’t stabilized the first five types of contributors. 

    At the Ranch consortium, we want our students to throw a lot, but we also understand that workload must be individualized.  Not everyone is ready to throw a lot.  A couple of years ago, we realized we needed to create a process for objectively measuring and calculating an athlete’s readiness to tolerate high volume throwing.

    At the Florida Baseball Ranch, we measure EVERYTHING.  We enter all of that information into a database we keep on an app in our iPads on the training floor. Our analytics department has formulaically quantified and weighted each possible contributing variable.

    We combine that information with ramp-up data, pain and recovery audits, and performance-related factors like velocity changes, strike percentages, and ball flight metrics. Then we run that data through an algorithm we developed that produces an on-going Arm Readiness Measurement (A.R.M.). This score ranges from 0 to 100 and allows us to individually predict the amount of work each player can tolerate.

    Last fall, the father of one of our 17-year-old students approached me before a training session and said, “Hey, my son threw 90 pitches in a game with his travel team this weekend. Does that seem excessive to you?” 

    “Hold on a minute,” I replied. I typed the player’s name into our Ipad App and called up his A.R.M. “No.” I said. His readiness score is 88 out of 100, so he should be able to tolerate 90 pitches just fine.”

    If the player had scored a 20 on the A.R.M. we would have had a reason for concern. More importantly, we would have needed to dig deeper into his assessment to determine why he had scored so low. Then we would have gotten to work on correcting his deficits so he could score higher on the A.R.M.  

    Imagine you’re a college pitching coach, or you run a travel ball organization. You enter a weekend series or a tournament with 10 pitchers. Three have A.R.M. scores of 80 or above. Four are sitting between 50 and 75, and three are below 35.  You’ll need to lean on the 80+ guys to handle most of the innings.  The four in the middle can eat up a fair portion, but the 35 and below group will probably be limited to only a few innings each.  After the series, you can address the discrepancies that led to the lower scores so they can handle more innings in the future.

    If you want to improve your velocity, your command, or your secondary stuff, you have to throw a lot. But, before you do, you’d better be sure you’re ready to throw a lot.

    Before you make another throw, or pitch in another game, call us at 866-787-4533.

    We’ll develop a customized training plan that links your hardware to your software, and optimizes your warmup and ramp-up. We’ll write a strength and conditioning program that will aid in your readiness and turbo-boost your development. When you execute your plan, you’ll be able to throw safely and with enough volume to accelerate your progress at warp speed.  

    You’ll throw harder.

    You’ll throw more strikes.

    You’ll have nasty secondary stuff.

    And, you’ll do it all without pain!

    We’ll be with you every step of the way to guide you through your process.

    We can’t wait to see you at The Ranch.

    Call us at 866-787-4533

    Randy Sullivan, MPT, CSCS

    CEO, Florida Baseball Ranch

  • August 2020 ENewsletter: By The Way, Have I Told You About Injuries This Year? : By Jim Wagner

    As also mentioned in last month’s newsletter, I said this would be the year of injuries. Remember? I said it enough times that some people even said to me, “Yes, you did say that, and your point?”

    Now, let me clarify something regarding all my talk about injuries. I may have written about it last month, but I’ve been telling everyone about it since APRIL. I’ve been screaming about this.

    Does this make my predictions even more powerful given there have, in fact, been a number of injuries since the MLB season and youth travel ball began again? Maybe, but there was a rhyme to my reason.

    The mind is so powerful; it can will us to do great things. The mind is also powerful enough to make us do things that can bring us pain and injury.

    Ever since March, when every sport had been cancelled, players could not wait to get back to playing games and for good reason.

    Schools had children staying home all day. People like Dr. Fauci, Dr. Ferrer, and others were telling us what we could and could not do. We were told “no” time after time. So baseball players quarantined, just like the rest of the nation, and became very sedentary and lethargic. Video games, Netflix, and television made us lazy. To be honest, I watched all nine seasons of “The Office,” which I’d never have done if we’d kept on going. But our emotions and thoughts around baseball never left our minds.

    So when the state started opening up again, numerous coaches immediately had their travel teams start practicing up to three times a week, while other coaches took their teams to places like Arizona to play from 3 to 6 games over one weekend.

    The coaches needed to coach, and the players were SO ready to play again. Mentally and emotionally at least, they were so ready to play.

    But a funny, well not too funny, thing happened. Their sedentary bodies weren’t ready for the physical part of the game. Oblique injuries appeared, groin and hamstring tightness became very real, and, most importantly, elbows and shoulders got tired, hurt, and, in some cases, injured to the point where players are still on the mend.

    It’s a sad state of affairs in baseball when injuries occur. But how could they not? Young bodies were not, and are still not, ready for the rigors these coaches are placing on them. It became a matter of, “Hurry up, because we have a game next weekend.” It’s shameful coaches had their teams playing game after game when their players weren’t anywhere near the level they needed to be at to play a game, let alone win.

    I know of one coach who had one of his star pitchers throw for 6 innings so they could get to the championship game of a tournament.

    It’s disgusting, and they wonder how a kid could get hurt. That coach said, “His arm should have been ready while we were all in quarantine.” Needless to say, I advised the parents of this player to immediately leave this type of environment. When the goal is winning instead of development at such a young age, then that coach is doing a great disservice to the entire family. In fact, you could argue it’s a form of child abuse, but that’s for another time.

    When the MLB voted to play an abbreviated season, I told Warren at class that the injury bug was going to get those players. They only had three weeks of summer training, and in less than a week a whole slew of pitchers went down: Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander (as well as 8 other Houston pitchers, 7 of whom were called up and had never pitched in big leagues before), Cole Hamels, Dillon Tate, Noah Syndergaard, Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Jordan Zimmerman, Mike Montgomery, Alex Wood, and Jimmy Nelson. The list goes on and on.

    This doesn’t even include the Angel’s Anthony Rendon (out with an oblique injury). If you look at the MLB injury list, it must have at least 180 names. Some are COVID-19 related, but a vast majority are from injuries from training or from the first several games of the season.

    My final point on this subject is to say that ALL players must be careful while getting back into shape. The MLB is different because these are grown men taking responsibility for themselves. However, we must take responsibility as parents, and myself as a teacher, to make sure our players are training accordingly and not just going out to the field at full speed.

    When we began our summer training, our players weren’t allowed to use the radar gun if they hadn’t been throwing for a period of time. Fortunately, a number of our campers are players who had already been working with us so we had an idea of where they were with regard to their workload. But if I just had players throwing immediately to a radar gun, then shame on me. However, I had an idea of who had trained accordingly and who had not.

    As schools go back online this month (on a personal note, I hate that the social development of young and healthy kids is being put at risk, including the isolation my daughter goes through every day), it’s going to be imperative that your player is getting in the repetitions he needs so as to be ready when games start up again. I constantly remind players that games WILL begin again, and they need to be ready.

    Here’s where we can help:

    Our weekly training sessions are ongoing. The 7:30pm Advanced Training Class (ATC) begins on Wednesday, August 12th. Our safety protocols are still in place and strictly enforced. Throwzone Academy is functioning with the safety of our players and their parents in mind.

    Allow us to be part of your son’s development. In fact, we can be utilized as part of your child’s physical education portion of the day, and I can sign any paperwork you need as proof. Allow us to put your child in the best possible position to avoid the risk of injuries.

    Not all injuries are alike and while we can never say players won’t get hurt, working with us WILL LESSEN the risk. We can proudly say that, and the proof is in our years of experience and in the number of players who have moved on to the next level, staying healthy and on the field all the while.

    We have several opportunities available and can start working with your son today. Call us at 661-644-2147 and begin a journey toward getting your son to the level he expects and needs to be at in order to reach his goals in his baseball career.

    Until next time…

    Jim

  • It’s Time For A Revolution in Throwing Rehab: By Randy Sullivan

    One night last winter my friend, Alan Jaeger called me with a major concern about the current state of UCL reconstruction post-operative rehabilitation and throwing protocols.  We talked for about an hour, and the discussion ignited a thought eruption that had been smoldering in my head for over 10 years.

    At the Florida Baseball Ranch® we train and develop high-caliber throwing athletes, improving velocity, command, secondary stuff, and arm health. This past summer, 161 high school and college baseball players made the trek to Lakeland, FL to begin their own relentless pursuit of excellence in our Complete Game Summer Training Program,  They trained up to five hours per day, five days per week and they stayed anywhere from 2-10 weeks.  The energy, intensity, and focus was palpable and he the results were incredible.

    It has been our honor to assist players in achieving performance levels they have heretofore only dreamed of. However, we also serve as the rehab wing of the Baseball Ranch consortium.  Like our sister company, the Texas Baseball Ranch®, hyper-individualization of multifaceted training is the keystone of our process.  At the Ranch, we frequently advise our students, “If you find yourself involved in a training experience  where everyone in the program does the same thing all the time, RUN!!!  If you “google return to throwing programs” the first 10 pages (notice I said “pages”, not “articles).”

    I believe it’s time for UCL rehabilitation to undergo a radical change.

    At the core of any rehabilitation process are 2 fundamental laws of physiology:

    1) Wolff’s Law states that bone grows and remodels in response to the forces that are placed upon it in a healthy person.
    2) Davis’s Law is a physiological principle (the corollary to Wolff’s Law) stating that soft tissue continually remodels and heals according to how they are mechanically stressed.

    Rehab Protocols Must Adhere To Known Principles of Tissue Organization

    Many esteemed members of the medical profession appear to ascribe to the idea that nearly all throwing injuries are due to “overuse” and that “you only have so many bullets in the gun, so you have to save them.” Those who do so are either denying or ignoring Davis’s law which applies to all human connective tissue that has a blood supply. While the UCL, Labrum, and rotator cuff aren’t the most highly vascularized tissues, they do receive some blood flow, and therefore under the right conditions, they are capable of remodeling themselves to resist the stresses under which they are placed.

    I’ve had the privilege of scrubbing in for surgery with Dr. Koko Eaton, the Tampa Bay Rays team physician, who during a few different UCL reconstructions lifted the fragment of a torn UCL and said, “look at how thick this ligament has gotten. This injury has been coming on for a long time.” My thoughts immediately turned to Davis’s law. “That confirms it,” I thought. “A thickened ligament indicates that it was attempting to remodel itself to resist the stress.” Unfortunately for this guy, it wasn’t able to remodel fast enough to keep up with the pace of the stress.

    During one particular surgery, Dr. Eaton had harvested an exceptionally long portion of the patient’s palmaris longus tendon (to be used as the replacement UCL). He drilled four holes in the in the bone and wrapped the tendon through in 3 full figure 8’s. Next, Dr. Eaton tested the stability of the graft with an aggressive valgus stress maneuver. I mean, he really popped it hard. I almost fell over from the startle reflex. I was shocked. In physical therapy, we had always treated our post-UCLR patients with kid gloves, gingerly handling the elbow and avoiding all valgus stress. After I had regained my senses, I said, “Wow. That looks like a pretty stable repair (I know. Brilliant, right?).” Dr. Eaton nodded and stated, “You know, Randy. This new ligament isn’t really the main stabilizer of the elbow. It’s just the lattice for the scar tissue. As it forms around the ligament, the scar will become the primary stabilizer.” He added, “Whenever we have to go back in for a second repair, “It looks like a grenade went off in the guy’s elbow. There is just this massive blowout of scar tissue.”

    Well, that really got me thinking.

    In physical therapy, we’ve used the same universal UCL rehab program for as long as I can remember. A surgeon might add a few nuances, or choose a preferred brace, but early physical therapy is pretty much a one-size-fits-all approach that involves minimal motion – even bracing – for the first several days/weeks. We progress through isolated, guarded ranges of motion in unidirectional planes (flexion and extension, supination/pronation), avoiding any valgus stress for at least eight weeks. We don’t begin any movement that simulates the kinematics of throwing until at least 16 weeks post-op. During that time, the stabilizing scar is forming without any guidance. If you’re not interested in the biological processes in the body, skip the next section. If this kind of stuff interests you, here’s how the scar is formed:


    The Physiology of Tissue Healing

    Immediately (within seconds or minutes) after the surgery there is a brief constriction of blood vessels followed by rapid vasodilation. Vessels that were shut down are re-opened and widened as the tissue is infused with fresh blood – blood that contains many of the necessary healing agents for recovery and the ever-important undifferentiated mesenchymal cells (UMCs) that begin forming the scar. UMCs are like over-the-counter stem cells that run in the platelets of the blood. They have no real job until tissue is injured. When they receive what is assumed to be a chemical signal about tissue injury or death, they have the miraculous ability to morph themselves into whatever kind of cells they need to become to replace the injured or dead cells. UMCs are the same cells involved in the PRP (platelet-rich plasma) injection procedure that has become popular in the last 8-10 years.

    After this period of vasodilation and infusion, the rate of blood flow diminishes. This increases the hydrostatic pressure which causes fluid to leak out of the blood vessels and into the surrounding tissue. The fluid that leaks out is called transudate, and it consists of fluid, scant amounts of protein, but it no intact cells. The migration of this watery fluid out of the vessels increases the viscosity of the blood. This condition is known as haemoconcentration (thickening of the blood).

    If the flow slows to a crawl or even stops, endothelial cells that make up the inner lining of the blood vessels begin to die for two reasons: 1) the roughness of the blood due to increased viscosity which scrapes the cells off the inner wall, and 2) hypoxia (lack of oxygen) as they are physically separated from blood cells carrying much-needed oxygen.

    When endothelial cells die or become dysfunctional, a critical process for evacuating cellular debris is disrupted, and constipation or backflow occurs. This is a primary reason we believe ice to be contraindicated immediately postoperatively. Ice causes vasoconstriction and impedes blood flow. Continued or enhanced blood flow will avoid the traffic jam that could result in permanent damage to endothelial cells and could cascade into more widespread necrosis (or cell death). For more problem with icing as a therapeutic modality, see the works of Gary Reinl, the author of Iced: The Illusionary Treatment Option.

    When epithelial cells are preserved, the clean-up can begin. White blood cells (also called leukocytes) roll along the inside of the epithelial cell wall adhering transiently to form what looks like white brick pavement along the edge of the vessel wall. The white blood cells that manage to stick to the inner wall then shoot out little “pseudopods” that become what are known as polymorphs. These polymorphs lift up the endothelial barrier and squeeze through to produce holes in the membrane. At this point, white blood cells migrate through the holes and secrete a protein that locks on to a corresponding protein on the pseudopod on the outside of the endothelial wall. The process of passing through the vessel wall is called emigration. When the protein bond is complete, emigrated white blood cells/pseudopods begin to move toward the injury site for cleanup. Remarkably, they travel against the concentration gradient, like a salmon swimming upstream, in a process known as chemotaxis. When healthy cells are injured, they release 3 chemotactic agents (C5a, C3a, and C567). These agents send a powerful signal to the white blood cells that attract them to the site of the injury. This reaction is facilitated by magnesium and calcium ions.

    When the white blood cells (also known as phagocytes) arrive on the scene, they don’t strike right away. They gather in a process called aggregation, then they recognize and engulf any unwanted debris, wrapping the garbage in a well-contained cellular trash bag before being passively transported into the lymphatic system for evacuation.

    The lymphatic system can be thought of like the waste management service of the body. It’s like the trash man, hauling off and disposing of unwanted garbage. But, the lymphatic system is passive. It doesn’t send trash men out to pick up the trash; it waits for the phagocytes full of dead debris to wander near the lymph nodes. As they diffuse into the lymph system, they are evacuated through the kidneys. The passive nature of the lymphatic system is why early movement and muscle pumping such as that produced by Marc Pro® electrical stimulation and the pressure gradient created by Rocket Wrap® a both valuable parts of our rehabilitation and recovery programs.



    Disorganized Tissue

    Once the clean-up is complete, the road is clear for the UMCs to do their thing. They morph into the appropriate replacement cells and, like fresh recruits on the battlefield, assume their new position.
    However, there is one more step they need to achieve an optimal outcome – a mechanical signal to direct their alignment. Following Davis’s Law, if we don’t provide a mechanical signal, by adding controlled stress to the new tissue, it forms in a disorganized fashion, like a plate spaghetti noodles left out in the sink all night. Disorganized tissue is unstable. Disorganized tissue is vulnerable. Disorganized tissue adheres to anything it can cling to, including, in the case of UCL reconstruction, the tendon graft that serves as the lattice for the newly forming scar.


    IASTM

    In the current universal UCL rehabilitation protocol, we wait at least 16 weeks before we expose the elbow to any stresses that even remotely resemble the demands of actual throwing. During the entire process, in nearly every case, we fight a common enemy – scar tissue. Fearful of imparting any level of valgus load, we attempt to eliminate functional stress and try in vain to manage the scar from the outside with modalities like cross friction massage, instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM), and a collection of vaguely defined manual therapy techniques commonly known as “soft tissue work.” Please don’t get me wrong here, I’m not averse to these modalities, I’m certified in IASTM and use it sparingly as a pain management intervention and in cases where we might a have a gnarly, adherent scar. Nonetheless, in my opinion, those who believe we can impart order on tissue from outside of the body are sorely mistaken. That’s not the way Davis’s Law works. We might be able to break some of the superficial fibers loose, but even then, without internally activated stress created by movement, we can never achieve optimal scar tissue organization.

    The Moment


    The Moment

    When I teach physical therapy continuing education classes on UCL rehabilitation, one of the slides I post is the image of a guy looking like he’s stressed and about to vomit. I call it “the moment.” The message is that as therapists and coaches we should prepare our players for an inevitable moment that nearly every recovering UCLR experiences. It usually happens at about 7-9 months post-operation. As the player begins to ramp up his throwing program toward more game-like intensity, he/she feels that dreaded and infernal “pop”! The immediate and terrifying thought is that they’ve re-injured the elbow, but more times than not, it’s just scar tissue breaking free. After about 7-10 days, the elbow starts feeling better, and the throwing program may be resumed. Why does this occur? I would suggest that the reason we fight scar tissue like this is that we allow it to become severely disorganized during our first 16 weeks of rehab.

    Could it be that the for the lucky athletes, the frightening “pop” represents the tearing of tissue that is not directly attached to the graft? But, for the unlucky ones, the story is different. When a scar is allowed to heal unchecked and unguided, it adheres to anything upon which it can find a foothold — including, in many cases, the tender new tendon graft. If the scar happens to anchor tightly to the graft site, when the athlete begins adding the stress of throwing, it could cause the disorganized, randomly-oriented repair to explode into the “grenade” scene described by Dr. Eaton.

    I believe we could be making a colossal mistake by eliminating all valgus stress and by avoiding any movements that mimic throwing in the early stages of rehab. Our efforts to protect the surgical repair by practically immobilizing the arm could be setting the stage for tissue failure. Within the limits of repair site integrity, establishing and maintaining scar tissue order should be the first order of business in any legitimate UCLR or Labrum repair rehabilitation. This can only be accomplished through controlled variable movement that adds the low-grade stress necessary to align the newly forming tissue effectively.

    Rehab Programs Must Address Tissue Physiology AND Motor Control Simultaneously

    What we’ve talked about so far is the physiology of the process. But, we haven’t yet discussed the impact of the extended rest and protection on motor control and coordination. As Dr. Eaton explained, the scar is an important stabilizer of the post-UCLR elbow. But, the number one stabilizing component of the system is dynamic motor control. The passive restraints provided by to the labrum and the UCL are the last line of defense. If your labrum and UCL are the points of primary stability, you’re probably already in trouble. The timing, sequencing, and synergy of surrounding musculature must be optimized to attenuate the stress on the UCL and labrum. Just like any other physiological system, the motor control system adapts precisely to the neuromuscular coordination demands it experiences. Lack of demand equals no adaptation. No coordinative demand equals no motor control. And, according to the SAID principle of rehab and training (Specific Adaptation to an Imposed Demand), the system will adapt directly in accordance with the stresses under which it is placed. When rehabilitating our players, the training experience we choose in every phase of recovery must keep tissue integrity paramount, but that experience must also be specific to the adaptation we are trying to elicit. It must mimic, as closely as possible, the parameters of the conditions our players will face in life and when they return to games.

    And, one thing we know for sure is that the stress our players must handle in life and in games will be largely unpredictable. To bulletproof our players against the variability and unpredictability they will eventually face, we must introduce incrementally increasing variability, or unpredictability as early and as safely as possible. When introduced slowly and within the limits of tissue integrity, variability will allow physiological and neurological self-organization of coordinated movement to progress simultaneously.

    As healing tissue organizes to withstand stress, it presents new coordinative demands. If we help an athlete develop the capacity to handle a given level of physiological stress, but we don’t also incorporate a motor control plan to keep the movement within the boundaries of safety, yet highly resistant to perturbation, we may be dooming them to failure. Connective tissue, whether healthy or healing, must remain physiologically and neurologically organized at all times.

    Return-to-throwing protocols that feature mindless adherence to a pre-scripted regimen of throws ignore many of the factors that contributed to the injury in the first place. It’s vital that we employ a thorough multi-faceted assessment process to identify possible contributors. When deficits are noted, we must incorporate training strategies that influence the athlete to achieve efficiency in all 6 types of contributors to sub-par performance and/or pain.

    Rehab Programs Must Be Individualized

    As stated frequently by Coach Ron Wolforth, our mantra at the Florida and Texas Baseball Ranches® has long been, “One-size-fits-all fits none.” Training plans must be customized to meet the individual needs of every player, and they must be changed as the condition of the athlete changes. Cookie-cutter recipes for rehab will never be adequate for optimizing outcomes. Rehabilitation protocols should should illuminate overall principles and goals, and they should serve as general guides and . But, they should never be viewed as a governor, and they should never replace or limit the sound professional judgment of an experienced and qualified rehabilitation professional or coach.

    Additionally, rehab protocols must be remain contemporary and should be changed and updated with the times.

    As new information emerges, our approach to rehabilitation should be modified to reflect the most current training concepts. The current approach to rehabilitating injured throwing athletes is based on a program first introduced in the late 1970s. It is antiquated, ineffective and it stifles the creativity and adjustability necessary to achieve consistently positive outcomes.

    We believe it is time for a change.


    Our recommendations:

    1. As soon as intra-operative bleeding is curtailed, remove the bulky dressing and eliminate all post-operative icing.
    2. Start Marc Pro for at least 16 hours per day to assist with exudate evacuation, thereby creating a more optimal healing environment.
    3. Add multidimensional low amplitude oscillations and gradually increase intensity as early as tissue integrity will allow.
    4. Begin early progressions of functional range of motion including active movements in multiple planes and in “throwing-like” exercises performed within pain limits. High-frequency, low-intensity motion should begin the day after surgery.
    5. Challenge all non-throwing arm attractors with light perturbations, variability and unpredictable loads ASAP after surgery.
    6. Incrementally challenge the Throwing Arm Attractor as soon as tissue integrity allows. use low grade
    7. Integrate variability/unpredictability early in the rehab process and influence more efficient movement patterns using self-organization techniques.
    8. Utilize technology such as MOTUS® and MuscleSound® to measure stress and fatigue objectively, but teach our patients/players to become intimately familiar with how their arms feel. Let that be the ultimate guide for the process.
    9. Design return to throwing and rehabilitative processes that allow each player to modulate his training experience based on how his arm and body feel on any given day, at any given moment.
    10. Use pain as the boundary marker, but allow each athlete progress as quickly, or as slowly as his body prefers. Be prepared to adjust the plan daily based on each athlete’s subjective report on the status of pain, weakness, tightness, fatigue, etc.

    Before publishing this article, I shared it with three trusted friends and colleagues, FBR Director of Player Development, Wes McGuire , Dr. Stephen Osterer, and Alan Jaeger. They added some important thoughts.

    Wes McGuire: We need to reconsider the value and potential corruptive nature of the initial throws in the traditional return to throwing protocol. Having experienced my own UCL recovery in high school, I am certain that the mechanics of a 50% effort throw are completely alien and might contribute to disconnections later in the rehab process. So many people (me included when I was recovering from a UCLR) develop some degree of ‘The Yips’ during UCL recovery. Could it be that these super-low intensity post surgical throws are offering disrupted sensory information that result in bad movement patterns?”

    Dr. Stephen Osterer: Something that would interest me in writing would be going into a bit more depth on how tissue loading directs directionality and composition of tissue, how all connective tissue is interconnected (van der Waals continuum), collagen deposition & type, and provide just a bit more insight into the importance of loading in general.

    I’d love to explore the concept of how variability in stress can lead to robustness, and that robustness is critical to resiliency – all from a rehabilitation standpoint. Consider how the majority of ‘return to throw’ is repetitive drill work, repetitive exercises, etc. Narrow bandwidth of solutions = narrow bandwidth of tissue resiliency.  This includes restoring joint range of motion (and proprioception) to increase the space of the elemental variables (a la UCM hypothesis) & that variability of load within that space may enhance the size of that space.

    Another interesting topic would be inducing fatigue on purpose to drive physiological adaptation, but in controlled frequency and duration. 

    Interested in the pain science component? 

    The effect of fear and tight coupling / freezing of degrees of freedom and how variability and novelty in task ‘free’ that? 

    Kinesiophobia would be an interesting avenue to walk down – not sure that I’ve found or read much about it elsewhere in baseball.” 


    I’d like to invite and welcome Ron Wolforth, Stephen Osterer, Wes McGuire, Alan Jaeger, Dr. Ed Fehringer, and anyone else who wants to join us, as we investigate the current state of injury risk management, post-surgical rehab, and return to throwing programs in baseball.

    When the current universal UCLR protocol was written, it was still ok for guys to smoke cigarettes in the dugout. I think it’s time to take another look. I think it’s time for a change.


    Randy Sullivan, MPT, CSCS
    CEO, Florida Baseball Ranch
  • When It Comes to Arm Issues… By: Coach Ron Wolforth

    In the span of 30 days, we at the Texas Baseball Ranch® had conversations with two DI pitching coaches, two DII head coaches, one DIII head coach, and an NAIA pitching coach, all about the exact same phenomenon.

     

    I thought it might be a perfect time to address this issue.

     

    Here is a synopsis of what they all said:

     

    1. Their team has historically done a very good job avoiding arm issues and surgical interventions.

     

    1. The last couple of years they have seen a definite upswing in the number of their pitchers coming to campus with a weighted ball throwing program and all the requisite paraphernalia.

     

    1. These young men with the choreographed throwing programs end up getting hurt, having extended periods on the shelf, or need surgery at a rather alarming rate that far exceeds the rate of their other pitchers.

     

    1. While they certainly don’t want to micromanage or forbid their pitchers from seeking outside help, they really can’t afford to lose any of their top guys to injury, and they are seriously thinking about limiting or forbidding their pitchers from such programs.

     

    They really wanted to hear our perspective on this phenomenon.

     

    Success Leaves Clues-
    The Unsuccessful Leave Debris Scattered Across the Landscape

     

    Here is a synopsis of our discussions with these men:

     

    For starters, let’s take this completely out of the baseball realm for a moment. For the ailment of high blood pressure, an MD has dozens and dozens of different medications in his/her tool box that he/she can prescribe. What the doctor tries to do, based upon the patient’s histrionics, assessments, and tests, is prescribe a regimen including dosage, frequency, and duration that best fits their patient. They then schedule a follow up appointment and retest and reassess to see how the prescription worked, and if needed, change the medication (choose a different tool) or modify the dosage and frequency.

     

    Next let’s look at world class strength coaches such as Eric Cressey or Lee Fiocchi. Eric and Lee have dozens and dozens of different options in their strength development tool box that they can prescribe. What they do, based upon the athlete’s histrionics, assessments, and tests, is prescribe a specific strength regimen including intensity, volume, and frequency that best fits the current needs of their athlete. They then closely follow the athlete’s progress and retest and reassess to see how the prescription worked, and if needed, change their program or modify the intensity, volume, and frequency.

     

    Far too often in the medical community, some doctors get stuck or are courted by and/or financially incentivized by pharmaceuticalreps to prescribe a specific medication for a certain ailment. Thereby often giving a ‘stock solution’ to otherwise very unique individuals with similar symptoms. As we all can imagine, this rarely goes well. In the medical profession, there is a very appropriate mantra, “Diagnosis and prescription without assessment can lead to malpractice”.

     

    Likewise, in the strength development community, some trainers prescribe a ‘one size fits all’ ‘stock solution’ to strength development. In essence, they have, in their opinion, one very, very good tool and they prescribe it to every one of their athletes. Over the years I have seen first-hand the negative repercussions and unintended detrimental consequences with homogenized strength programs. This is in large part what separates Eric and Lee. They are meticulous on performing their due diligence for the benefit of their individual clients.

     

    In our opinion, we private instructors, pitching coaches, and head coaches should hold ourselves to the same high standard.

     

    The Problem Is Real and It Is Not Going Away Any Time Soon

     

    Returning now to the question surrounding the college and high school pitcher: “Should we then be surprised when an athlete shows up with a ‘stock’ weighted ball or throwing program and becomes injured or has arm issues?”  Answer:I don’t believe so. In fact, I’m personally surprised more aren’t injured. ‘One size fits all’ programing, even those that are sound, will of course often have very uneven results when applied to a universal population.

     

    By the way, I’ve learned this the hard way. In 2006 we had one regimen that we THOUGHT was extremely good. It worked very well for some, it didn’t help others at all, and some it actually took backwards. It was a very humbling lesson for us. Today, in 2019, we have literally dozens of paths an athlete can take, and we use the diagram to below as our foundation. I think it is a great guide for most people who work with groups of athletes.

    #1 First we assess to find out where the athlete is currently.

     

    #2 Then we place the athletes in the most appropriate training
    category based upon their most pressing personal needs.

     

    #3 We then customize and hyper-personalize as much of their training process as possible.

     

    #4 We prioritize their work to make certain the main thing remains the main thing.

     

    The Good News: There Are Things You Can Do…
    A Third Option

     

    Now let’s return to the main issue: Pitchers showing up on campus with a stock weighted ball throwing program.

     

    Option #1-We could simply let them do their thing and HOPE they will be ok. The problem with that approach is that if this guy is supposed to be one of our key contributors this season, can we really take the risk of him being healthy and available to us when the anecdotal evidence suggests that those guys get hurt more often. Is that fair to the rest of the guys who bust their humps every day in search of a championship?

     

    Option #2- We could put our foot down and not allow outside programs whatsoever. The problem with that approach is that it immediately creates a rift between the player and the coaches, and really places a stain on trust, rapport, and team culture. Always keep in mind that the player has consciously invested his time and money into his program, and you refusing to respect or honor his investment is a confirmation that you feel that the athlete is either incompetent, inept, or incapable of making sound training decisions on their own.

     

    Option #3- Or you could do this. Ask the player the following questions:

    • Ask the player to bring you his weekly process. (If he doesn’t have one, it’s on one sheet of paper, or on a laminated card, you know immediately it’s a stock program and what you are dealing with right away.)
    • How many days total are they throwing each week in addition to your team practice?
    • How many throws or how much time is spent on each segment outside of your team practice?
    • How many ‘push’ days a week outside of your team practice does this process call for?
    • What do they do for a wake-up, warm-up, and arm preparation outside of your team practice?
    • What do they do for post throwing and recovery outside of your team practice?
    • Did they previously have any assessment completed with regards to their physical structure or alignment which shaped their current process?
    • Did they previously have any assessment completed with regards to their mobility/flexibility which shaped their current process?
    • Did they previously have any assessment completed with regards to their strength/stability which shaped their current process?
    • Did they previously have any assessment completed with regards to their mechanical efficiency which shaped their current process?
    • Have they previously had any pain, arm issues, or difficulty in recovering?
    • Is their current workload using this system more, less, or the same as they trained in previous seasons?
    • Can they adequately explain, to your satisfaction, the specific purpose of each of their drills?

     

    Again, I learned the importance of these questions the hard way. For the last 12 years I have roamed the facilities of the Texas and Florida Baseball Ranches, continually asking players those exact questions. While our coaches and players have improved exponentially in their ability to answer those questions over the past 12 years, some players just don’t quite grasp the concepts and/or the full magnitude of their personal training process.

     

    The reason this is important is we obviously can’t assume just because an athlete ‘generally’ knows how to perform a specific drill and carries with him a laminated card and training paraphernalia, he therefore is a master at managing his own process over the course of the season. Subsequently, such a person who is clearly not intimately knowledgeable would, in our opinion, need and benefit from our continued guidance, mentorship, and support.

     

    Remember: You Lead People…
    You Manage Systems & Processes

     

    Based on how each athlete answers these questions, the answers give us great insight into how we should proceed.

     

    If indeed this is a ‘stock’ and ‘homogenized’ throwing program in which there is little or no personalization, cycling, or periodization, then we suggest you as his coach should intervene.

     

     One of the biggest weaknesses of choreographed throwing programs is a complete lack of a ramp-up for soft tissue. Soft tissue pliability, resilience, and robustness takes a gradual increase in intensity and volume over time. 

     

    • Tell him to take his prescribed throwing program and cut it in half for the first 2 weeks.
    • Tell him that if his arm is completely healthy after the first 2 weeks, for the next 2 weeks (weeks 3-4) to increase the volume to 60% of the suggested throwing program workload.
    • If his arm is completely healthy after weeks 3-4, tell him for the next 2 weeks (weeks 5-6) to increase the volume to 70% of the suggested throwing program workload.
    • If his arm is completely healthy after weeks 5-6, for the next 2 weeks (weeks 7-8) increase the volume to 80% of the suggested throwing program workload.
    • If his arm is completely healthy after weeks 7-8, for the next 2 weeks (weeks 8-9) increase the volume to 90% of the suggested throwing program workload.
    • If his arm is completely healthy after 9 weeks, he may add ONE velocity push day or one max long toss day and adopt his full program as long as you are not scrimmaging. If you are scrimmaging, pitching in competition becomes his push day. By all means long toss on a regular basis but trying to set personal all-time best distances is not recommended in our opinion during your competition phase.
    • If at any time he experiences any sort of arm discomfort, he immediately reverts back to the previous week’s volume and intensity, and refrains from any velocity push days or maximum distance long toss.

     

    Bottom Line:

     

    • The steepness of season, training/practice, and game time ramp-ups are absolutely critical towards arm health and durability. Get that wrong at your own peril.
    • There is a third option for dealing with ‘stock’, ‘one size fits all’ weighted ball throwing programs and it not only helps with the ramp-up and arm health, it also builds rapport and trust between the coaches and the player as they work together to build a healthy, more durable, more electric throwing athlete.

     

    Until next time,

    Stay curious and keep fighting the good fight.

     

    – – – – – – – – – –

     

    If you know a young man that doesn’t need more innings this summer, but instead needs to improve either his velocity, command, secondary offerings or arm health & recovery, please encourage him to join us at The Texas Baseball Ranch for our “Extended Stay Summer Development Program”.  He will leave with a hyper-personalized plan to help him with HIS specific needs.  More information is available at www.TexasBaseballRanch.com/events.

  • Want to Make a Real Difference in Your Pitching Performance? by Coach Ron Wolforth

    Want to Make a Real Difference in Your Pitching Performance? Follow these three steps EXACTLY:

    A. Start by reducing or eliminating any regular pain, tightness or discomfort.

    • First, identify the specific location(s) of your pain
    image
    • Second, rate the current degree of that pain 1-10. A rating of one equals incredibly small discomfort, soreness, tenderness, irritation or fatigue. A rating of a ten equals severe and dehabilitating discomfort, soreness, tenderness, irritation or fatigue.

    Medial Elbow

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

    Anterior Shoulder
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

    Posterior Shoulder

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

    Lateral Elbow

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

    If your pain is exclusively to the medical elbow and/or the anterior shoulder, you’ll need to focus your immediate work on improving the efficiency of your acceleration using the connection ball and connection club.

    You can clearly see the changes Justin made to his movement pattern from 2014 to presently with the Astros using the connection ball.

    20 years of experience tells us that this is ESPECIALLY true if your discomfort is rated above a 3/10. In fact, significant gains in velocity, recovery, command or sharpness to secondary pitches will be very difficult to attain with routine discomfort exceeding 3/4 out of 10.

    Therefore we have coined a phrase at the Ranch, in terms of pitching development: ‘Start with the Pain™’.

    image

    If your pain is exclusively to the lateral elbow and/or the posterior shoulder you need to focus your immediate work on improving the efficiency of your deceleration pattern using the Durathro™ Sock.

    Nolan Ryan had by far the most efficient pattern of deceleration that we have seen in all of our research into elite caliber pitching athletes. Notice the difference between Ryan’s deceleration pattern and the typical pattern! The Durathro Sock has been an amazing tool in reducing lateral elbow & posterior shoulder discomfort and in improving patterns of deceleration.

    image

    The Durathro Sock in Use

    image

    Bottom Line: As little as 15% improvement in the efficiency of your movement pattern- either from an acceleration movement pattern perspective and/or a deceleration movement pattern perspective can have profound impact to 1) pain, 2) recovery and 3) consistency.

    And the great news is 15% is very easy to create.

    B. Create A Structured Recovery Program to Improve and Enhance Your Ability to Bounce Back after Bouts of Training and Pitching in Games.

    • First: Develop a holistic and integrated wake-up warm-up routine that prepares the entire body for the specific demands of robust training and/or competition. The body can only recruit what is awake. An elite thrower’s soft tissue also needs to be properly primed for the intensity of throwing a baseball at full effort.
    • Second: Develop a customized arm care/ pregame/ pre-training process that readies the body and arm to organize itself for high intensity.
    • Third: Develop a personalized ramp up process that allows you to enter the game, hot, lathered, loose and ready and yet not over heated, fatigued or winded…and just as importantly not so steep that you feel rushed, hurried, frazzled or pressed.
    • Fourth: Develop an In-game routine that keeps you warm, centered and prepared in between innings regardless of temperature or length of innings.
    • Fifth: Develop a post throwing regimen that reduces swelling, inflammation and aids in the healing of micro trauma to soft tissue.

    Bottom Line: As little as 15% improvement in your ability to recover or bounce back between outings or training sessions can have profound impact to 1) velocity; 2) command; 3) stuff and 4) consistency.

    And the great news is 15% is very easy to create.

    And once those two steps have been established:

    C. Create a 6-18 Week Hyper-Personalized Performance Algorithm to Focus Your Work on Exactly What YOU Need MOST.

    • If you are MOST behind your competitive peer group in terms of velocity: Create a Velocity Enhancement Program and develop a more electric fastball.
    • If you are MOST behind your competitive peer group in terms of command and throwing strikes: Create a Command Enhancement Program and become a strike thrower.
    • If you are MOST behind your competitive peer group in terms of your ability to throw pitches with movement and/or having swing and miss ‘stuff: Create a Secondary Offering Enhancement Program and go to work on developing your off speed and secondary pitches (curveball, slider, cutter, change-up, splitter Etc)

    Follow these three steps and without question you will make a REAL difference in your pitching performance.

    If you would like guidance or assistance in creating and then supporting yourself through these three steps personally, that’s what the Texas Baseball Ranch® Elite Pitcher’s Boot Camp is ALL about. Our Coaches work hands on with every pitcher in attendance to help them come up with a personalized plan based on assessments and a video analysis performed by me!

    Ready to Register: click here NOW

    Call our office with questions at 936-588-6762

    Email our office info@texasbaseballranch.com

    Until Next Time, Stay Curious and Keep Fighting the Good Fight.

    Coach Wolforth

  • Is Baseball’s Current Instructional Pop Culture Giving Weighted Balls A Bad Name? BY: RON WOLFORTH

    The competitive baseball universe is very akin in many ways to our Western Culture at large, trends and fads are always in motion. As we all know from life experience, trends and fads simply come and go. In 2018, ‘weighted balls’ and velocity enhancement programs are decidedly in vogue. Even as I travel around the world to places like Italy, The Netherlands and Australia, I see weighted ball programs coupled with their promises of fantastic jumps in velocity. If you are a relative newcomer to the world of competitive baseball, you may not be aware that this was certainly not always the case.

    In 1993, I started my first instructional academy in Langley British Columbia, Canada. For nearly the next 10 years, the utilization of weighted balls was decidedly not mainstream. Although a couple of very unique places were utilizing over-weighted implements, the baseball universe at large was decidedly against the use of anything other than a regulation baseball for throwing. The process of throwing balls weighing more and/or less than a regulation baseball was almost universally thought of as risky, perilous, crazy, fraught with danger and an exponential increase in the risk of injury.

    Today, 2018, weighted ball velocity enhancement programs are commonplace on the internet, at high schools, colleges and in instructional academies across the country. Today it seems everybody has a velocity enhancement process. That represents a significant change in the training culture in just 25 years. That’s great news, right?

    The answer, yes and no. We’ve obviously come a long way in reducing our irrational fear of a simple tool. That’s a good thing.

    On the flip side, hardly a week goes by that we don’t get an email or a phone call at the Texas Baseball Ranch® saying something along the lines of, “Our son has never had arm trouble before and this last offseason/month/week etc. his trainer/coach put him on this new weighted ball program… and now he is hurt/out and needs surgery. We heard you are the ‘supposed’ weighted ball/arm health people… why is this happening? Is this common? What do you suggest going forward?”

    Randy Sullivan at the Florida Baseball Ranch also gets regular questions along these same lines. As we also know, typically, for every call or email you receive there are many, many more who have similar issues but are not calling or are calling someone else. Suffice to say, with all the new velocity enhancement programs out there today, arm injuries are on the increase and weighted balls are, in our opinion, often getting an unfair bad rap.

    From Randy Sullivan- Florida Baseball Ranch,

    “We field 3-5 calls per week from parents of players ranging in age from 12-24 who most often have tried a mail ordered, one-size-fits-all weighted ball program and are now experiencing arm pain. It’s sad really, for many it was their first attempt at improving their ability to throw and they often regret trying the cheapest, simplest route. One-size-fits-all anything often becomes a dangerous shortcut.”

    Let me start by giving you a short history of the Ranch’s utilization of weighted balls and possibly assist people in understanding the role that a well-designed weighted ball program can play on arm health, durability and performance.

    Weighted Balls Are Simply a Tool. They are NOT a Panacea or a Quick Fix for Anything. They Can Be Beneficial, or They Can Be Utilized Inappropriately and Have Deleterious Effects.

    The Ranch History of Our Utilization of Weighted Balls

    The Beginning

    In 2002, inspired by the work and research on weighted bats by Dr. Coop DeRenne, we began in earnest using underload and overload principles in the training of our throwers. In other words, we began utilizing weighted balls. We started with 3 weights: a one-pound ball (16 oz),1/2-pound ball (8 oz) and an underload ball (4 oz). The balls we used were called ‘D-Balls’. They were a hollow yellow rubber ball and filled with a type of black graphite with a black cork stopper. I’m not even sure if they even make them anymore. The balls simply were not very functional for the punishment we were placing them through.

    Eventually, Mr. Robert Oates of Oates Specialties began to work with us to customize the balls to withstand the rigor in which we took them through. That evolution and innovation between Oates Specialties and the Ranch remain constant even today.

    It is important to point out that the baseball universe even in 2002 was much different than the one of today. In 2002 we were seen, of course, initially as heretics, crazy and dangerous in using weighted balls in any matter, shape or form. We were regularly excoriated publicly on websites, message boards and blog posts for our ‘reckless’ behavior and ‘placing the athletes in our care at unnecessary risk just to gain a few miles per hour’.

    In hindsight, all this scrutiny was actually a blessing. Every day when we went to work we had no doubt that the world was watching, just waiting to pounce on our ‘dangerous’ and ‘ineffective’ training methods.

    Several times I actually had rather influential baseball people get me in private and say, “Ron, just between you and me… off the record… how many TJ’s did you have at the Ranch?” Apparently, many people thought it impossible that we could do both… arm health/durability AND performance enhancement.The baseball universe at that time simply believed it impossible to thread the needle between those two outcomes.

    Ah Ha #1. Prehab vs. Rehab

    The first thing we did was make weighted balls initially the cornerstone of our Arm Care Program. We didn’t race to velocity enhancement initially because quite frankly we didn’t know what we were going to find, so we started slowly with arm care.

    By that time (2002) I had attended for several years in a row the ASMI Injuries in Baseball Conference in Birmingham Alabama. The impetus of the conferences was not performance enhancement; however, I found the symposiums to be exceptional on the topic of rehabilitation. Strangely enough, in the area of ‘rehab’ there appeared to be widespread acceptance on the use of weighted poly balls and rebounders.

    It occurred to me…THIS is exactly where we are going to begin with weighted implements. Weighted balls would be utilized first as a prehab/arm car process allowing our athlete’s soft tissue to first become accustomed to the stimulus/load and then… after a period of assessment… see where we go after that.

    Ah Ha #2. The Reformation-The Engineer and Pushing the Performance Envelope.

    In 2003, we invited a man by the name of Paul Nyman to speak at our Coaches Boot Camp. He was an engineer with a track background but a love of baseball. He gave two presentations that fundamentally and forever changed the way we trained at our facility. For several years we had been in search of a training process that rejected the conventional paradigms and antiquated, ineffective training methods. In Paul Nyman we found exactly that.

    Paul Nyman gave us a new paradigm and a new perspective. We referred to our personal iteration of Nyman’s dynamic systems paradigms as “The Athletic Pitcher Program”. Even publicly, I have long described Nyman’s work as essentially the ‘Reformation’ in baseball training. Today, Nyman remains the single greatest outside influence upon the Ranch and its fundamental training processes in our history.

    In 2003, Nyman proposed the unthinkable. He offered a structured, incremental weighted ball throwing program coupled with radar as objective feedback. To Nyman and his engineering/ track background, it was basic common sense. To the baseball elite, it was heresy.

    Ah Ha #3. Deceleration Is as Important as Acceleration

    Dr. Mike Marshall won the National League Cy Young Award in 1974 and set a Major League record for most appearances by a relief pitcher in 1974, appearing in a mind-blowing 106 games. He is the holder of two Major League records, both of which he set in the 1974 season: most appearances (games pitched) in a season (106), and most consecutive team games with a relief appearance (13). In his record-setting 1974 season, he pitched 208.3 innings, all of which came in relief appearances.

    Those statistics alone should force any logical trainer/coach/athlete to sit up and take notice and to ask questions. Dr. Marshall endorses a very unique movement pattern that in many ways is the antithesis of the current orthodoxy. Many people simply could not grasp his nonconventional approach and/or Dr. Marshall’s often bombastic and acerbic manner.

    We brought Dr. Mike Marshall in as a keynote presenter to our annual Coaches Symposium and just as advertised, he challenged the status quo and turned the preverbal instructional apple cart upside down, taking no prisoners with regard to his absolute disdain for contemporary methods of pitcher development. In our opinion, Dr. Marshall made a very compelling argument giving evidence that not only were the current standard training processes ineffective, in fact, they were complicit in the influx of injuries and surgical interventions.

    While Dr. Marshall had very, very few complimentary things to say about our training or our approach, we in turn learned a great deal from him regarding the critical importance of systematically preparing soft tissue for the rigors of pitching in competition, as well as the often-overlooked nature of the efficiency of an athlete’s pattern of deceleration.

    Dr. Marshall was the first person we ever heard articulate the connection between deceleration and acceleration, “The body and arm will only accelerate itself as efficiently as it can decelerate itself.”

    So, from Dr. Marshal we took two very critical pieces to our current training protocols:

    #1) That our process of preparing our athlete’s soft tissue for throwing needed to be far more robust than our previous methods.

    #2) That the efficiency of our athlete’s patterns of deceleration not only matters with regards to health, durability and recovery but also are influential with regards to velocity enhancement.

    In other words, if my soft tissue isn’t sufficiently prepared for the push or my pattern of dissipating energy and slowing down my arm is inefficient, a velocity enhancement program almost certainly needs to be postponed until those areas are adequately addressed, or injury will all too often be the result. At the very least, any efforts at velocity enhancements will be constrained or hampered if these areas are deficient.

    Unfortunately, this description of inadequate preparation of soft tissue and/or inefficient patterns of deceleration is far more common than most people think. It’s yet another reason young men get injured while embarking on a velocity building program. In our opinion, weighted balls too often serve as a diversion to the root contributors of injury. Ah-Ha #3 is a classic case in point.

    Ah Ha #4. Start with the Pain and Hyper-Personalize

    Fresh off the presentations of Paul Nyman and Mike Marshall, we began to experiment with weighted balls as a velocity enhancement process. However, we did so with two crucially important caveats:

    A. The athlete currently does not have arm/shoulder/elbow issues

    B. The athlete had a minimum of 6 weeks throwing weighted balls in our arm care process

    If the athlete passed out of that basic 2 step criteria, they were eligible for our initial velocity enhancement process. We referred to this process as “Starting with the Pain”.

    As an important side note, every single session would end with an arm health self-re-assessment. In other words, when each athlete would finish a session, we would immediately check with them on the status of their arm. If they rated their discomfort as a 4 or higher, they would automatically be withheld from the next scheduled session until their arm health returns to normal. If, at any time during the session, their arm discomfort rises above a 4 on a 0-10 scale or anything feels odd or strange, they were to immediately suspend their training session.

    This basic process remains standard operating procedure almost 15 years later.

    First- always prepare the soft tissue for 4-6 weeks prior to our initial push.

    Second- closely monitor every athlete’s arm health each session and adjust their processes based on the individual.

    Third- never hesitate in delaying or suspending the process if the arm is not responding well. Learn to train your pitchers to be intimate with their arm and understand that some days it is simply time to shut it down and decide to fight another day. In other words, if you’re ‘not feeling it’today, many times the right call is to suspend your push for today and come at it again later in the week or the next week. Injury will certainly place a REAL delay in your development. It is never a good idea to push to the point you become injured.

    Ah Ha #5. Mechanical Efficiency (Connection) Matters… A lot

    In 2005, I watched a sports medicine TV program about an orthopedic doctor who specializes in treating world class elite long-distance running athletes. His comments regarding injuries in this very specific population of athletes really resonated with me.

    He basically said that most doctors treat the injuries to elite long-distance runners from a faulty paradigm. This was the gist of his comments:

    Of course, world-class distance runners have incredibly high workloads, that’s the very reason why they are world class, so if your instinct is to treat the injury primarily or exclusively by the simple reduction of their workload, you will be of little practical use to your athletes. They run, that’s what they do. They run a great deal and that’s why they are elite.

    Instead, he urged the doctors to look deeper and closer, and not be so plastic in their perspective. Elite long-distance runners are far from normal. Therefore, he concluded a conventional approach to injury reduction for the general population will not typically be beneficial to the elite long-distance runner.

    If, he argued, the elite runner has an inefficiency in his running form or their shoes do not fully support their feet, under any considerable workloads of course injury is eventually going to often be the result. Therefore, he proposed, in many cases, the workload was only a symptom or an ancillary contributor to injury and not the cause itself.

    For example, if a runner actually ran on the side of his/her feet, would managing his/her workload be a sufficient solution? The obvious answer is absolutely not. Reducing his/ her workload may delay the final breakdown but would do NOTHING toward a solution. The only solution would be to improve the efficiency in which he runs.

    That made absolutely perfect sense to me. Applying this orthopod’s logic to throwing athletes, it became obvious to us at the Ranch that mechanical efficiency also really matters when it came to deciding who was approved to take part in our velocity enhancement programs. Over the past 12 years, we have identified 12 primary movement pattern disconnections that have the potential to add stress to soft tissue.

    So, when we initially assess athletes and find a significant level of one or more of the 12 disconnections, coupled with arm pain or difficulty recovering from throwing sessions, that indicates to us that we must first reduce the disconnection, reduce the discomfort of the arm and increase their ability to recover and bounce back before we throw them into a velocity enhancement program.

    To us at the Ranch, this simply is common sense. If I have some arm discomfort on a regular basis currently and NOW I’m going to really ramp up the stress, load, and intensity, why should I be surprised when injury or shut down is the result?

    Bottom line: In our opinion, this is one of the most common reasons so many young arms are injured from weighted ball programs and velocity enhancement programs. They are already on the edge of injury right now. The weighted ball just simply was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

    Ah Ha #6. Holism- Everything Matters. The Continual Search for the Simplicity on the Far Side of Complexity

    Many players and their parents desperately want development and performance enhancement to be simple. They want their coaches or instructors/trainers to explain the incredible complexity of human performance with catchy phases, teaching cues and/or one-size-fits-all recipes to success.

    In the privacy of quiet reflection, most of us would realize this type of process is simply fool’s gold.

    Need velocity? Just get on the internet and obtain a good weighted ball program.

    Need arm health? Just get on YouTube and watch a good arm care process.

    Need command? Throw more frequent bullpens.

    Need better secondary stuff? Ask your instructor/coach for a new grip. Maybe find out how Clayton Kershaw holds it.

    In our estimation, these suggestions are not bad in and of themselves, they are simply endemic of a much bigger problem. Most people routinely underestimate the complexity and difficulty of consistently performing well at highest levels of competition. At the Texas Baseball Ranch®, we have run head first into that reality, again and again, ourselves over the past 15 years.

    In 2010 to give our team at the Texas Baseball Ranch® a foundation to understand and deal with that complexity, I created a chart to guide us. It has since been edited and slightly improved upon, but the foundation remains unchanged in 8 years and is a fixture in our core philosophy.

    This chart was my effort to remind myself and my staff to continually recognize and appreciate the complexity of high performance, to refrain from the constant lure of trying to explain the unexplainable to a client and yet create a sensible foundation from which we could make valid and sound decisions and judgments.

    The 6 Primary Contributors to Substandard Performance

    What is keeping you from having a healthy, durable, electric arm?

    • Type I Contributors- Structural Related
        Physical misalignments, asymmetries, strength imbalances, constraints in                mobility/flexibility and/or strength/stability
    • Type II Contributors- Movement Pattern Related
       The movements related to actually throwing the ball; the mechanical efficiency of   the athlete’s movement pattern
    • Type III Contributors– Preparation Related
       Wake-Up warm-up, pretraining, pregame, postgame, ramp up to season or to     session/game
    • Type IV Contributors- Training Related
       How your training processes affect your abilities (strength program,   mobility/flexibility program, conditioning program, throwing program)
    • Type V Contributors-Workload/Recovery Related
       How much, how long, how often, how many per inning, how quickly you return to   full speed.
    • Type VI Contributors- Internal Systemic Related                                                                            Sleep, nutrition, hydration

     

    Why is this chart so important? What does it have to do with the efficacy of a weighted ball program? Simple…

    Everything matters.

    For example, the belief at the Ranch consortium is:

    If the athlete’s physical structure, alignment, strength, balance, mobility/flexibility or stability is considerably limited, constrained, compromised or deficient, a weighted ball velocity enhancement program is contraindicated and will have to wait until those issues are addressed.

    If the athlete’s mechanical efficiency is questionable or marginal and has manifested abject pain or difficulties in recovery, then a weighted ball velocity enhancement program is contraindicated and will have to wait until those issues are addressed.

    If the athlete hasn’t built a minimum of a 6-week foundation of preparation for their soft tissue, a weighted ball velocity enhancement program is contraindicated and will have to wait until those issues are addressed.

    We have taken our share of criticism from some corners of the baseball universe that we overly hype pain and for our ‘overzealous need’ for multiple assessments before engaging on a velocity program. We truly don’t mind the criticism. Everyone should be free to come to their own conclusions. However, that doesn’t necessarily make the criticism cogent.

    As I alluded to previously, we have been attempting to tread the needle between arm health/durability and performance for the past 16 years. In that time, we have found some really good news that we wish everybody in the baseball universe would understand and take advantage of, and that good news is this…

    The Really Good News

    #1. We have found that if we can simply assist each athlete in reducing or eliminating any regular discomfort of his elbow or shoulder and/or significantly improve his ability to recover/bounce back, that athlete will in fact nearly always (85% of the time) experience a slight but notable uptick of 1-3 mph in velocity in 4 weeks of his improvement in his arm health and durability.

    This should only make sense. If the athlete’s arm feels better…he will naturally ‘step on the accelerator’.If his arm is more durable, he can throw more often and for longer stretches of time. Do those behaviors appear to support enhanced velocity? The answer is without question… yes!

    #2. We have found that as the athlete improves his mechanical efficiency and builds his throwing foundation, any weighted ball program we place him under in the future will be far more effective.

    Final Comments

    The fact many people often forget is that ALL balls are ‘weighted’. Every ball ever created has weight. The common vernacular of ‘weighted balls’ infers that the balls they are utilizing are typically heavier than the 5 ¼ounce regulation baseballs. Coop DeRenne used the terms ‘overload’ and ‘underload’ to help further clarify his process. We of course are shaped by the works of DeRenne and Nyman and use similar language.

    I do believe it is a rather foolish and antiquated position to take that a 5 ¼ounce ball is somehow a ‘safe’ weight but 3 ounces or 7 ounces are dangerous.

    We suggest viewing the weight and size of the balls in your training as a specific type of stimulus, and just like dosage/time/frequency in medicine matters, so does the specific stimulus in training. Sometimes the individual is ready for and indeed should have ‘more’. Other times, ‘more’ would be dangerous.

    It will take customization, communication, testing, assessment and constant monitoring to maximizes it’s affects and minimize its risks. One thing is for certain, the one-size-fits-all processes that I see firsthand out there now does none of those. They are simple, but they are often far from benign.

    We have indeed come a long way from the 1990’s in terms of our perspective on weighted balls. That’s a great thing. However, in my opinion, until and unless we can move past the desire to obtain a universal, monolithic, catchall weighted ball throwing program, we as a baseball universe will keep running head first into the unintended consequences of inappropriate and misapplied training, with injury and surgical intervention as the much too frequent outcomes.

    But of course, it’s not weighted balls that are the problem. The problem is how they are utilized. As my late father was frequent to remind me when I complained about my equipment, “It’s rarely the bow that’s the problem…it’s the skill of the Indian warrior using it that matters.”

    Indeed.

    A Steven Covey quote that I think is the perfect way to end our discussion of weighted ball training,

    “If there is no gardener, there is no garden.”

    Our advice at the Ranch Consortium, when it comes to weighted balls and velocity enhancement programs, become the gardener. It’s the difference maker.

  • What Is a Growth Plate Injury? What Do Our Baseball Training Programs Do To Fix Them? by Randy Sullivan, MPT, CSCS

    At our baseball training programs camps, we work with players of every age and experience level. It’s not uncommon to have a major league client on site, but it’s also not unusual to see a cool 9 year-old running around .

    Spring Training is beginning soon for major and minor league professionals, college and high school seasons are rolling and the young guys — middle schoolers and below — are launching into their rec and travel ball campaigns.
    About this time of year, as the arm pain management division of the Baseball Ranch® consortium, I field a lot of questions about growth plate injuries.

    So what are growth plate injuries, and how do they occur?

    First let me tell you what they are not… usually they are not catastrophic. So when you find that your son or daughter, or one of your players has suffered a growth plate injury there is no need to panic. Most of the time, a simple period of rest is all they need to get back on track.
    eliminating arm pain with baseball training camps
    Think of growth plates as little factories, manufacturing bone cells and depositing them on the bone to make it longer. There are several growth plates in the shoulder and the elbow. When an athlete is fully grown, these growth plates fuse and the factory shuts down. At younger ages, growth plates are highly active and vulnerable to stress.

    When exposed to abnormal stress, the body will usually break at its weakest link. In older athletes, the weak link is the connective tissue (rotator cuff, labrum, UCL). In the younger population the weak link is the growth plate.

    Not all growth plate injuries are the same. In our baseball training camps and programs, we treat growth plate injuries very differently depending on the type of injury. If you’re dealing with a growth plate injury, it’s good to understand the classifications.

    The Nature Of Different Growth Plate Injuries

    The Salter-Harris classification is a simple and easy to remember system to identify the nature and severity of a growth plate injury. It uses the name “Salter” as a pneumonic memory jogger. According to sketchymedicine.com, it goes like this:

    1. SEPARATED (the bone and the growth plate have come apart) – but it actually looks normal on x-ray (you can only tell on physical exam)
    2. Fracture ABOVE the growth plate
    3. Fracture LOWER than (below) the growth plate – fracture extends to the articular surface
    4. Fracture THROUGH the growth plate
    5. Fracture ERASING/compressing/squashing the growth plate – this is the worst kind because with disruption of the growth plate comes disruption of growth. Type “ER” injuries are usually caused by rare occurrences such as frostbite, electric shock and irradiation. They’re hard to see on x-rays but show up on MRIs.

    baseball training programs to eliminate arm pain

    Depending on the classification of the injury, treatment could range from simple rest, to casting, to surgery.

    Most of the growth plate injuries we see are of the “S” variety — the growth plate becomes separated, and manifests itself in the form of pain. This type of injury may or may not be seen on x-ray. But, if a young athlete experiences persistent pain in the shoulder or the elbow, you should be suspicious of a growth plate injury.

    The same variables that contribute to soft tissue injuries in the older athlete, also place the growth plates at risk. I discussed these factors at great length in my book, Start With The Pain: The Complete Guide To Managing Arm Pain In The Elite Throwing Athlete, but as a review, here they are again in order of significance:

    Type 1 contributors: structural/physical related (tightness, weakness, asymmetries, imbalances, etc…)
    Type 2 contributors: movement pattern related.
    Type 3 contributors: tissue preparation and recovery.
    Type 4 contributors: training related factors.
    Type 5 contributors: workload (pitch counts, innings limits).
    Type 6 contributors: nutrition, hydration, sleep, and psychological stress.

    What We Do For Growth Plate Injuries

    Coaches at our baseball training camps know that, when you have a soft tissue injury (UCL, labrum, rotor cuff) that doesn’t result in catastrophic failure, it’s very important during the rehab process that you provide controlled stress to organize the healing tissue along the line of resistance. It’s a concept known as Davis’s Law – a physiologic precept stating that all connective tissue in the human body organizes itself to resist the stresses under which it is placed. For this reason, in the case of soft tissue injuries to the throwing athlete, rest may be the worst thing you can do. If the tissue is not completely disrupted, it needs a mechanical signal to guide reorganization as it heals. This is when we recommend light throwing or throwing in the Durathro® Training Sock for players in our baseball training programs.

    What To Do While Healing

    But when it comes to growth plate injuries, tissue reorganization is not the primary goal. Protecting the growth plate and preventing the injury from progressing to a more serious situation is the order at hand. In that regard, the growth plate injury is one of the few throwing disorders for which I would indeed prescribe total rest. An acceptable amount of rest could range from 2-8 weeks depending on the nature and severity of the injury. By “rest”, we mean avoidance of throwing, not complete cessation of all training activities.

    When working with injured players in our baseball training camps, one of our mantras is, “Never let what you can’t do keep you from doing what you can.” While the athlete is waiting for his growth plate aggravation to subside, he should work to eliminate any possible constraints in stability and/or mobility that might be contributing to the problem. He may also be able to work on improving lower half power and efficiency – traits that will help him attenuate stress on the arm once he’s read to resume throwing. During this time, the young athlete can also learn a quality warm-up and recovery process that will serve him well when he eventually resumes throwing activities.

    After Rest Period

    After the appropriate rest period has elapsed, it is extremely important to address all the movement pattern related variables that might have contributed to the injury. A video analysis of the throwing pattern should reveal any arm action of lower half inefficiencies that might have combined with structural, preparation, recovery, or training related factors that could have created an environment for his injury to occur. From this analysis, an individualized corrective throwing plan can be designed and executed.

    Frequency, intensity and volume of throwing should always be ramped up gradually, monitoring the athlete for any report of pain.

    If you are the parent or coach of a young thrower, awareness of the possibility of a growth plate injury could lead to early detection, intervention and avoidance of a more severe injury.

    Do you need to get an x-ray or a MRI immediately if your adolescent thrower reports pain? Probably not.

    Most growth plate injuries are relatively benign and respond well to brief rest. However, in the case of intense, intolerable pain, or if the pain persists even after a couple of weeks of rest, it may be helpful to seek out imaging to get a more clear picture of the situation and possible treatment options.

    Are you having arm pain? If you are, I’m sure you’d like to get it settled. If you don’t take care of it now, at best it could nag you throughout the rest of the year and at worst it could evolve into something more serious.

    We literally wrote the book on arm pain management. Learn more about how we eliminate arm pain. Then give us a call at 866-STRIKE3 (866-787-4533) and let us set you up with a Precision Strike One Day, One-on-One Evaluation and Training Plan.

    We’ll do a total body physical exam and a video analysis to identify any variable that might be contributing to your pain. We’ll work with you to develop a training plan tailored to your specific need and we’ll help you return to pain free throwing quickly and safely.

    We can’t wait to see you at The Ranch.

    Baseball training programs that eliminate arm pain
    Randy Sullivan, MPT, CSCS
    CEO, Florida Baseball Ranch

  • The Top 4 Ways Pitchers Become Disconnected - By Randy Sullivan, MPT, CSCS

    “Overhand throwing is an unnatural movement.”

    That’s what “they” say.
    Who says that?
    You know, the ubiquitous yet ever-elusive “they” who reign supreme as the self-appointed authority on just about everything.

    Well… not surprisingly, “they” are wrong again.

    According to a June 2013 report published in the journal Nature, throwing has been “natural” since our Homo Erectus ancestors began chucking rocks and sticks at large prey about 1.9 million years ago.

    Humans are born to throw.It’s in our DNA. And when left to our own devices, most throwers learn to do so without the need for any coaching or guidance. Yet, despite the natural nature (that’s redundant and repetitive) of throwing, injury rates continue to climb and although most players desire to throw at a high level, many never achieve it.

    How can this be?

    As I reflect on this question, I am guided toward yet another stroke of brilliance from Coach Ron Wolforth of The Texas Baseball Ranch. Sometime around 2015, Coach Wolforth presented a list of 11 of the most common “disconnections” that limit a player’s ability to throw hard, demonstrate elite level command, developed high caliber secondary stuff and/or recover on schedule. At the risk of sounding like a slobbering lap dog, I am frequently impressed by Ron’s ability to see through complex problems and pare them down to comprehensible, manageable categories. Hyper-individualization of training plans across multiple dimensions is the hallmark and the desired endpoint of the TBR/FBR consortium but without categorization there can be no systemized path to customization.

    Categorize, then customize.
    That’s the formula and in my opinion it’s brilliant.

    Throwing at a superior level is about being “connected”. When a delivery is connected all the body parts are acting in timing and synergy with one another. Every part is playing its proper role and performing in concert with all the other body parts and those parts are operating around a stable spine.
    Disconnections are defined as instances when a body part acts independently, away from the natural synergy of the rest of the body or apart from a stable spine. Disconnections add stress to connective tissue that can result in injury, premature fatigue and/or difficulty with recovery. Disconnections can also limit an athlete’s ability to summate the forces in the kinetic chain, thereby limiting the ability to achieve optimal velocity. And finally, disconnections can lead to early unraveling of the movement pattern, resulting in command issues and substandard secondary stuff
    Being connected is natural. Disconnections are unnatural.

    So, why do some throwing athletes become disconnected?

    In my experience there are 4 reasons a throwing athlete develops disconnections (and these are listed in order from the most common to the least common).

    • Their disconnections are taught. Through the years, I’ve studied throwing more than most and I’ve screwed some things up along the way. Frankly, many of the concepts I espoused as a young coach probably did more harm than good. There are about 1000 kids I should find and offer my apologies. I taught what I knew… and I was wrong. Like me, there are many well-meaning coaches who unfortunately possess incomplete or in correct information. I’ve never met a coach who intentionally made a player worse, or chose to put him at risk for injury. Nonetheless, many of the standard teaching points in traditional pitching instruction are simply wrong and they encourage disconnections. “Get your elbow up”. “Point the ball to second base.” “Tall and fall.” “Push off the rubber.” All of these well intentioned commands can lead to disconnections that add stress to connective tissue, rob a pitcher of velocity and negatively impact command and secondary stuff. Yes, indeed… many times disconnections are taught.
    • They are desperately seeking energy in the wrong places. When inefficiencies present themselves, they tend to disrupt the kinetic chain such that a player attempting to maximize production subconsciously searches for motor patterns that might be counterproductive or might even put him at risk for injury. This is most commonly demonstrated in the disconnection that is the highly debated inverted W. Defined as any time the throwing athlete moves one or both elbows into extreme abduction with internal rotation of the shoulder. Typically, athletes who demonstrate this disconnection also exhibit poor lower half efficiency. Lacking support from the ground, they look to their upper bodies to produce the energy needed to approach elite level throwing. In my experience, many times if you can improve the lower half movement pattern, this upper half problem goes away.
    • They have mobility or stability constraints that force them to adopt a particular movement pattern. I say this quite often. Mobility and stability constraints are intimately interwoven. Often one will spawn the other. For example, if you have tight quads or you have poor ankle mobility, you’ll probably have a hard time getting into a glute load. Your mobility restrictions will force you to shift your weight toward the ball of your foot and you’ll become quad dominant. This will project the direction of your load toward the on deck circle on your arm side. From this point, unless you have crazy hip internal rotation mobility and motor control, you’ll either land across your body and throw hook shots toward home plate (significantly stressing your connective tissue in the process), or you’ll disconnect with a lead leg opening early, premature torso rotation, leaning hard to the glove side with your posture, you’ll push or leap with your back leg, instead of rotating, in a move that will cause you to release the ball with your back foot in the air – effectively eliminating any further contribution from your lower half. Mobility and/or stability constraint are often major contributors to disconnection and they’re frequently ignored. If you hope to change a pitchers biomechanical patter, you must assess for contributory physical constraints concurrently with a high-speed video analysis.
    • Their body randomly selects an inefficient pathway as they are learning their movement pattern. One of the fundamental principles in motor learning is known as Bernstein Principle #1 and it states, “The body will organize itself in accordance to the overall goal of the activity.” If given a clear goal, the body will find a way to accomplish the task. Note, however that we said the body will find “a way.” That doesn’t necessarily mean it will always choose the safest or the most efficient way. That’s where master teaching/coaching can play the most significant role in player development. As players begin to self-organize new movements we can use motor learning strategies to maximize efficiency and safety, increase the rate of learning for the student and improve transfer to game performance.

    As a master teacher or coach, it is our responsibility to design and execute training protocols that take advantage of all the available motor learning science principle to suppress, improve or eliminate disconnections. And, it seems to me that it would be a whole lot easier to catch them before they became a problem. Get your athlete connected first. Then add energy. That is the Ranch formula and so far it’s going pretty well… and getting better all the time.

    If you’re a throwing athlete who needs to get connected, here’s how you can connect with us, here are 3 links to get you there:

    • Come spend a week or two with us at our incredible Complete Game Winter Training Program. Stay anywhere from 1-6 weeks and train up to 5 hours per day, 5 days per week. Get connected and ramped up for the best season of your life. Click Here to learn more.
    • Schedule a Precision Strike, One-day, One-on-One evaluation and training session. We’ll spend up to 5 hours in a one-on-one experience assessing you for inefficiencies and physical constrain. Then we’ll take that information and design a custom-made training plan that will leave no stone unturned and you’ll leave not only with a world-class comprehensive training plan but you’ll also be offered a process to stay connected with us so we can help you continue your improvement. Click Here to learn more or call us a 866-787-4533 (866-STRIKE3) to schedule an appointment.
    • Come to a weekend Elite Performance Boot Camp. In what can only be considered 2 days of amazing, we’ll conduct a full court press assessment, teach you all the drills and exercises necessary to correct your inefficiencies. You’ll learn about our leading edge motor learning approach and we’ll teach you all you need to know about strength and conditioning, tissue preparation and recovery. You’ll leave with a plan that will make the complex subject of elite thrower training simple and easy to implement.

    We can’t wait to see you at The Ranch®.

    Randy Sullivan, MPT, CSCS
    CEO, Florida Baseball Ranch

  • Athlete Has Elbow Pain, Calls FBR, Then Makes Team USA - by Randy Sullivan, MPT,CSCS

    The 2020 Vandy commit from Boca Raton, FL was a low to mid 80s lefty when I met him on September 23, 2016. He and his father made the 3-hour drive to the Florida Baseball Ranch® for a Precision Strike One Day One-On-One Evaluation and Training session. We conducted a full head-to-toe physical assessment and a video analysis of his movement pattern. We noted a few mobility issues and a slightly elevated distal humerus and crafted a customized multi-dimensional training plan. Nelson “bought in” to the process completely and diligently executed his program. After a few tweaks, a little work on his mobility, and some power building, it wasn’t long before he was touching 88 mph.

    Nelson and his Dad returned to the Ranch for a pre-season check up in December of 2016, upon which I noted that his mobility had improved significantly. His dad Ross Berkwich, a lifetime Yoga instructor, had seen to that! His video analysis showed that he was much more biomechanically efficient and essentially free from gross constraints. More importantly, he was pain free and ready to have a great year.

    He entered his high school season with high hopes and even higher expectations. Things seemed to be progressing well. Nelson was his usual dominant self on the mound. But then one cool night in April, during a routine district game a couple of weeks before the high school playoffs were to begin, Nelson’s elbow started to hurt. The next day it was worse, and even after several days of rest, he still couldn’t muster up a full effort throw without experiencing pain. The location of the pain was right over his UCL. Fearing the worst, local coaches and medical acquaintances advised him to seek a MRI.

    Instead, Nelson’s father called the Florida Baseball Ranch®.

    After discussing the young lefty’s playing and training activities over the last 4 months, his father sent me video of Nelson making a sub-maximal flat-ground throw in an unidentified hotel parking lot. It wasn’t optimal but it was the best we could do since we needed to act quickly. Nelson’s high school playoffs, summer season and a tryout with Team USA were approaching rapidly.

    When I reviewed the video, I noticed that during the past 4 months, which had consisted primarily of pitching in games, resting, and throwing bullpens, his former arm action disconnection — the elevated distal humerus — had returned. But, more importantly, he had become quad dominant in his first move, projecting him toward the first base on-deck circle. In an attempt to compensate, he opened his lead leg early but still found himself landing across his body. This prevented him from adequately rotating around his front hip, causing his deceleration pattern to become linear, which resulted in a valgus stress on the medial elbow when he reached full extension. Click here to read more about the dangers of a linear deceleration pattern. In my view, it wasn’t one thing causing his pain… it was probably a little of all of the above.

    I felt certain we could help him if we could improve his arm action and his lower half efficiency. But, how were we going to change his movement pattern during the season, especially if he couldn’t throw a baseball without pain?

    Enter the Durathro® Training Sock.


    I texted Nelson and asked him if he had his sock with him. He said he did so I told him to go back outside to the parking and make a few throws with a 7-ounce ball in the sock and let me know how it felt.
    Within 5 minutes I received his reply:
    “No Pain!”

    When I read Nelson’s text, I let out a loud, “Whoo hoo!!” followed by, “Yes!! We got this!!!”


    In our Start With The Pain system Nelson would be classified as a Level 2 intervention. This would typically involve a 25-day return to throwing program that would include sock throws, a connection ball, and a series of corrective throwing drills. As his movement pattern improved and his pain subsided, we would gradually wean him from the sock and the connection ball and then ramp up to full intent baseball throws.

    But, Nelson didn’t have 25 days. His high school playoffs were set to begin in less than 2 weeks and I knew he really wanted to be there for his team.

    Since Nelson had trained with us extensively and had demonstrated heightened body awareness for a player his age, I felt he would be able to make the necessary changes more quickly than most. I immediately went to work and wrote a 10-day return to throwing plan. He would spend the first 3 days performing 8 different corrective throwing drills in the training sock at 5 reps each (no baseball throws). Then each day he continue with his drills, shifting the ratio of sock throws to baseball throws to 4:1, 3:2, 2:3, 1:4, and 0:5. He would also taper his use of the connection ball until it was no longer needed. As always, Nelson’s pain would be our guide. He was instructed to keep the intensity of his throws below the pain threshold and to check in with me every day with a report on his progress. By the 10th day, Nelson was pain free with all his drill throws, so we decided to try the mound. He threw a 15-pitch bullpen without pain, and by the time the playoffs rolled around, he was ready to answer the bell.

    Nelson continued to have a fantastic year on the summer travel ball circuit. And then last week, I got a text from his dad who was elated to report that Nelson had touched 89 mph, made the final cut and been placed on the roster for 15u Team USA. At the time of the text Nelson was on a plane to Columbia with his teammates on a mission to claim the title of World Champions.

    We couldn’t be happier for Nelson and his family. This young man exemplifies the qualities of integrity, passion for the game, perseverance and the relentless pursuit of excellence we espouse. He is truly a “Ranch Guy.”

    Good luck in Columbia Nelson!

    From fearing a Tommy John injury to representing his country on the world’s biggest stage… what a ride that must have been for Nelson and his family!

    Proud of you dude!!!

    Now go bring home the Gold!!!

    Randy Sullivan, MPT,CSCS
    CEO, Florida Baseball Ranch

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