Is it really supported by science?

On its surface, this question isn't all that hard to answer. The typical internal translation is often, "Is there a published research paper that supports this?" While that's a very common thought, there are a few problems with it.

Problem #1: Confirmation bias.

So there's a paper with an affirmative conclusion. Is it the only paper on that subject? Are there papers with a negative conclusion?

Confirmation bias and cherry-picking can allow someone to paint a fairly abstract illustration of what research really has to say on a subject. Confirmation bias seeks out only affirmative research, while cherry-picking is intentional disregard of research that doesn't affirm your assertion. Both methods of research review fail to appropriately consider the entire body of research.

This does not mean that every single research paper on a subject must be read in order for a reader to have an opinion on the subject. In many cases, this is actually quite an onerous task. In my opinion, it is generally sufficient to include discussion of both affirmative and negative research.

Problem #2: You may be reading a lie.

Some people are not smart enough to understand what they've read. Some people don't even read the research papers that they cite. Some people are so disingenuous with their manipulation of the research that it is equivalent to a bald-faced lie.

A once prominent pitching voice* frequently claims that his hypothesis is supported by science; however, the paper he cites in his defense actually contains conclusions that neither support nor refute his hypothesis. The comment to which he often refers is actually just a hunch offered by the paper's primary author. Even the primary author mentions that the research does not support it!

The only way to parse through claims like this one is to read the research for yourself, especially when investigating a potential coach.

* This is vague on purpose. I am not trying to start a flame war here.

Problem #3: Non-specific conclusions, poorly worded abstracts.

I recently read a 21-year-old research paper for the first time. What caught my attention was the conclusion in the abstract that explicitly stated, "This finding suggests that the muscles on the medial side of the elbow do not supplant the role of the medial collateral ligament during the fastball pitch."

After digging into the paper, it's clear that this conclusion is not generally applicable as its language would suggest. The full text of the study states that every member of the test (injured) group had pain when they threw.

In other words, there were no asymptomatic injured pitchers, and since pain inhibits performance it is impossible to know which element was to blame for the measured differences: the structurally compromised UCL or the pain.

Everything about the study was fine except for the wording in the abstract. Because the abstract completely skips over the fact that the entire injured group actively felt pain, it's impossible to know without reading the full text that the abstract's conclusion was specific rather than general.

It would have been 100% accurate with only 4 extra words, "This finding suggests that the muscles on the medial side of the elbow do not supplant the role of the medial collateral ligament during the fastball pitch in injured, symptomatic pitchers." Those 4 words pack a lot of meaning into the conclusion.

Wrap-up

One of the tougher issues that I think a lot of people have with research papers is understanding exactly what they're reading. Frequently, people only have access to a paper's abstract, and as described above, that can be pretty misleading.

Maybe it's just delusions of grandeur on my part, but I'm planning a research review series that will aim to dig into the guts of some published research on pitching, throwing, and arm health. Features will include study design, discussion topics (some papers have extremely interesting discussion sections), and conclusion analyses. Look for it in the coming weeks.

Season Preparation: On-ramping

It's still December, but in Texas, it's already time to start thinking about your spring season on-ramping. With high school and college teams beginning practices in January and many youth leagues not far behind, the training window is already turning into the preparation window.

Sufficient preparation is essential for both performance and health. Whether you spent the off-season training your butt off or resting and recovering from a year-round schedule, you don't want to show up to that first practice -- especially if it's a tryout -- and not be ready to go.

If you've been training, on-ramping for the season will mean transitioning to focused flat-ground work and eventually throwing from a mound. The goal is to translate off-season gains into baseball-ready performance.

Professional players are still 8-10 weeks from reporting, and at Driveline Baseball near Seattle, the pros have just started high-intensity throwing:

If you've been resting, however, on-ramping for the season will mean gradually returning to throwing. Most youth pitchers will fall into this category, and nearly all year-round pitchers should fall into this category. (Some pitchers don't even give themselves time to rest, playing in fall leagues and showcases well into December!)

Traditional prehab-style on-ramping focuses on constrained throwing (wrist flicks, elbow extensions, etc.) with limited intensity and restricted distances. As part of the ramp-up, throwing constraints are removed, intensity is increased, and distances are extended.

Coming off a period of rest is a great time to introduce a plyo ball program. The low-intensity, constrained throws at the beginning of such a program will not only physically prime the body for more intense throwing, it also gives the pitcher time to learn the new movements.

Starting out with heavier implements, such as Driveline's green and black PlyoCare balls, a plyo ball program tests the brain's neurological map for throwing, challenging it to become more efficient. As lighter implements are introduced and constraints are removed, the body continues to move toward readiness while a more efficient throwing pattern begins to take hold.

On the other hand, a traditional on-ramp program that uses only a standard 5oz baseball, while it will help prepare the pitcher for the upcoming season, will generally not provide enough of a training stimulus to challenge movement efficiency.

The clock is ticking on this off-season. Make sure you're ready for 2017.

Dynamic Pitching Development Program

The details have been finalized, and I will be starting up an advanced, long-term development program for serious athletes.

The development program is designed to be a long-term program that will help recovery after the season, training-and-gaining in the off-season, and maintenance during the season -- with a focus on long-term, individualized development rather than short-term, cookie-cutter results.

This program builds on the lessons from the introduction program, and sessions will feature extended warm-up and cool-down routines, more advanced training tools, access to instant training feedback via radar and video, as well as focused attention on strength and mobility that simply can't be fit into the introduction program's 1-hour sessions.

The development program's 2-hour sessions are designed with an open-session concept. Athletes will have full access to the facility and our materials for the entire two hours, but there is no strict schedule in place. If you have a light day planned, you can probably be in and out in less than 1 hour, while a heavy throwing day with some corrective exercises or weight lifting might require the full two hours.

All sessions will run in partnership with Defy Gravity Speed and Agility Training at My Batter's Box in Prosper, TX on Monday and Thursday evenings from 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM. Three options will be available: Monday only, Thursday only, or Monday and Thursday. The first 5-week block starts on Monday, January 4, 2016!

For registration details or other questions, please feel free to reach out to me through my contact form.

The Dynamic Pitching Introduction program will continue to run 1-hour sessions at 5:00 PM and 6:00 PM on Monday and Thursday evenings.

"Delayed Internal Rotation" revisited and elbow roll-in

Almost 4 years ago, I wrote an article that was sort of a spit-balled take on an arm action sequencing concept. Practically immediately, it was torn apart by Dr. Mike Marshall. I realized then that the article was poorly written. Part of that was the spit-ball nature of it, its kind of "thinking out loud" approach, but a big part was my wonderfully awful descriptions of and references to the kinetic chain.

Shortly thereafter, I threw a disclaimer at the top and promised to re-write the article. Well, there really isn't much point because, even cleaned up, I don't think the concept holds water.

Today, at Ron Wolforth's Pitching Central Ultimate Pitching Coaches Boot Camp, that exact article was mentioned in reference to an analysis of different types of lay back, what causes lay back, and how someone can have late forearm turnover and avoid the dreaded reverse forearm bounce.

It's an action that I've addressed before in my pitcher analyses. In my analyses (both professionally and on this site), I've drawn attention to when a pitcher decreases reverse forearm bounce by "picking up" his elbow. You can see this very well in my 2009 analysis of Brandon McCarthy. Back then, I described it like this:

It's hard to tell from this angle, but McCarthy's reverse forearm bounce might be exaggerated by some elbow flexion. By this, I mean that he picks his elbow up high enough that gravity plus natural elbow flexion - rather than inertia - appear to be causing some of the ball's downward motion. This view is inconclusive, but I don't believe his ulnar collateral ligament would hold up for very long if inertia alone caused a bounce that large.

You probably noticed that I was having trouble effectively articulating my thoughts about it. Chris Holt of Pro Bound USA in Clearwater, FL -- who didn't know I was in the audience -- has solved this problem for me by calling it "elbow roll-in".

With that term in mind, watch some of those McCarthy pitches again. Pay attention to his elbow and layback. While there is almost definitely an intertial lag component that helps with McCarthy's layback, the bulk of the layback was done by the way he rolled his elbow into position to lead his forearm.

This method of layback is something for which I've become a big proponent over the past 4 years (for a number of reasons that I don't have time to get into right now). I've needed a succinct way to describe it for some time, and I'm glad Chris was there to help me out.

Is it October yet?

Oops, looks like I missed my return target by a bit. I don't have time to really sit down and write a bunch about how my season went, how incredible The Best Night of Baseball Ever was (like you don't already know), or what all I've been up to this off-season, but some of that's on its way.

Here's a quick shot, though, for those that are getting their feet wet on the nutrition front. I just finished reading Dr. Jonny Bowden's The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, and I have to say that I learned a lot. I knew a bunch from frequently reading Brian St. Pierre's blog, but I was shocked at how much good stuff I was already eating.

The part that didn't really shock me was how good for me some of my least favorite foods are. I'm talking about the brassica family which includes broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts, and kale among its members. The nutrient density and anti-cancer properties make them Dr. Bowden's superstar vegetable family. The knowledge I gained from reading this book helped me push past my hatred of these vegetables and actually starting eating them, and I'm sure I'll be better off for it.

You win this round, broccoli, but you'll never make it onto one of my pizzas.

You win this round, broccoli, but you'll never make it onto one of my pizzas.

I highly recommend the book, and I can't wait to dig into The 150 Healthiest 15-Minute Recipes on Earth, another of Dr. Bowden's offerings.