I have a saying that I always used when I discuss how and why baseball pitchers sustain injuries:
Baseball pitchers get injured when they’re tight or they’re tired.
I know, it’s not that profound of a statement, but I really do think it’s that simple. We often try to overcomplicate the reason for baseball pitching injuries. Over the years we have researched this quite a bit and found that:
- The act of throwing is stressful on the body
- Throwing makes you lose mobility and strength
- A loss of mobility or strength is correlated to injuries
I originally published the first study to look at range of motion of the throwing arm before and after pitching. We were looking to determine what happened to the arm immediately after throwing.
We reported that after throwing a 40-50 pitch bullpen session, that shoulder internal rotation decreased by 10 degrees, shoulder total rotational motion also decreased by 10 degrees, and elbow extension decreased by over 3 degrees.
What do these 3 motions all have in common? These are the muscle groups that all eccentrically contract to slow down and decelerate the arm while throwing.
We found that the act of throwing causes an immediate loss of range of motion of both the shoulder and the elbow. Anecdotally, I have found that this loss of motion can easily be cumulative and result in a steady loss of motion over a season.
However, with a simple mobility routine performed over the course of a season, we reported that we were able to restore and maintain mobility in pitchers, which is one of the primary reasons I believe our pitching injuries were so low and we handled our pitchers so well when I was with the Boston Red Sox.
Since publishing this original research report on loss of mobility from pitching, others have also correlated the loss of mobility to injury rates. This is why I also have another saying that I often use:
I want you to be “you” every time you pick up a ball.
What I mean by this is, if we know you loose motion from pitching, and we know that this loss of motion is cumulative over the course of the season, and we know that this loss of motion can potentially lead to injuries, then we should do whatever we can to restore and maintain your mobility BEFORE you pick up a ball.
This is why we recommend a good warm-up routine prior to throwing. I also believe this is why our arm care programs at my facility, Champion PT and Performance, are so successful. We not only build up the arm strength and dynamic stability in our athletes, we also help restore and maintain their mobility.
The impact is huge. Players almost immediately notice the difference in how they feel and that it is so much easier to get loose. We offered a peek into our Arm Care programs at Champion in one of our past episodes of our Champion TV video series:
While our arm care programs are effective in managing the baseball pitcher during the season, don’t forget that we have also noted that you lose mobility fairly quickly while pitching, after only 40 pitches.
You probably lose motion slowly over the course of a game as your pitch count rises. I am sure any pitcher that plays on a team with a strong offense knows that they feel like they tighten up while on the bench during a long inning while their team puts up a few runs.
So while arm care programs are necessary in season, what if there was something we could do during the game to maintain mobility?
The 2-Out Drill
This was the exact question my friends and colleagues Rafael Escamilla and Kyle Yamashiro sought to answer. Working with the Oakland Athletics, they developed what they called the “2-Out Drill.”
Essentially what this means is that you should perform the drill between innings, perhaps when your offense records the 2nd out of the inning and your know you’re close to getting back on the mound.
The 2-Out Drill contains a series of mobility, activation, and movement prep drills specific to the act of pitching.
I wanted to share a video of the 2-Out Drill so you can see it in action. I have modified the original version slightly based on what I have found to be effective, but here is how I teach people to perform:
An Easy Way for Baseball Pitchers to Maintain Mobility
Rafael and Kyle recently published a study in the American Journal of Sports Medicine documenting the effectiveness of the 2-Out Drill.
The reported that after throwing a 40 pitch bullpen, that range of motion was limited, similar to our past study. However, the group of pitchers that performed the 2-Out Drill were able to restore their mobility back to the pre-pitching levels.
These results are amazing and important. In talking to Kyle, some of the things that he told me that aren’t in the research study were that the pitchers felt so much better, felt like it was easier to get loose, and felt that they were able to pitch better after performing the drill. My athletes said the same thing.\
To me, this is a no-brainer. The 2-Out Drill is quick, simple, and effective at maintaining mobility during the game. I recommend all baseball pitchers use the 2-Out Drill between innings, but also prior to throwing each day. It’s also a great way for relievers to get ready in the pen before they starting throwing.
Give the 2-Out Drill a try and let me know how you feel.
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