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Entries in Please Don't Buy This (4)

Saturday
Feb192011

Please, don't buy this: StrikeOut Strippz

StrikeOut Strippz has been a product I've wanted to write about for some time. Unfortunately, it looks like I waited too long. The online store for purchasing these is no longer functioning, and the inventor's blog has not been updated since June 2009. Instead of writing my typical "Please, don't buy this" stuff, I'm simply going to highlight a few reasons why this product was something you shouldn't buy.

If you've heard of using a towel for pitching drills, then you can probably get a fairly accurate concept of how to use the StrikeOut Strippz. Simply imagine attaching the towel to your fingertips -- or maybe strapping the towel to the back of your hand -- so you don't have to grip it when doing the drill. Voila! You've got yourself a do-it-yourself version of the StrikeOut Strippz.

There's no question that a vinyl strip (Why are there two strips???) attached by a glove is going to be a lot easier to use, and convenience means something. Maybe spending $24.95 on such a product would have made sense for you.

The Strippz were part of a package that included instructional DVDs meant to teach coaches and parents how to teach the inventor's idea of "perfect mechanics" to their young pitchers. The methods involved rhyming (so you know it has to be correct!) and a few questionable body and arm positions.

The methods are no doubt successful, though the techniques being taught remain questionable. Pitchers who followed the teaching cues learned repeatability, a very valuable attribute for any pitcher because it leads to improved control. Of course, repeatability is only achieved through practice.

Practicing anything enough is going to result in learning. Repetition leads to repeatability. It's that simple. The trick is having something to repeat, and that's exactly what this product did. Whether or not the StrikeOut Strippz mechanics were the best thing to repeat -- and judging by the materials on their website, they aren't -- remains to be seen.

If you really want to learn how to be a better pitcher, find an actual pitching coach. There's only so much that can be contained in a 76-minute DVD.

If all you need is a system to repeat and your money is tight, you should use Google and find someone who's giving away "perfect" mechanics for free. There's no reason to pay for it.

To have a look at this questionable product for yourself, click here, but please, don't buy this (if the ordering system is ever fixed).

Do you know of another stupid pitching product out there? Tell me about it.

Friday
Nov202009

Please, don't buy this: ThrowMAX

I'd like to introduce you to the ThrowMAX, a device that aims to cure improper throwing mechanics by forcing the pitching arm to conform to a specific angle and motion. Two questions should immediately come to mind. Is the goal appropriate? Does the product accomplish its goal?

ThrowMAX on the right arm.After sifting through all of the marketing on their website (linked below) and ignoring their idea of good throwing mechanics to better focus on what the product actually does, one can find the pseudo-science used to justify the purchase and use of a ThrowMAX.

"Get your elbow up when you throw!!!" is the clear emphasis for this little contraption. According to the website, "the ThrowMAX alters the previous incorrect comfort zones of the throwing arm in order to take the stress off of the ligaments, elbow, growth plates, and shoulder." The device is supposed to force a pitcher to keep his elbow at or above his shoulder level and flexed to between 85 and 90 degrees.

We have now identified the product's goal: to take the stress off of the ligaments, elbow, growth plates, and shoulder by forcing the elbow to stay flexed between 85 and 90 degrees.

Is the goal appropriate?

It's really hard to argue with taking stress off of ligaments. This should be a goal for every athletic brace.

Taking stress away from the elbow and the shoulder are also admirable ideals. You can change how the stress is distributed across the two joints to place more stress on musculature rather than ligaments and bone. You can even limit stress by shortening the levers (i.e. bending your elbow to shorten the lever - the pitching arm - that extends from the shoulder).

Growth plates are an entirely different matter. The key growth plates in the pitching arm are on the humerus, and without getting too technical, you simply can not avoid applying stress to them. The only way to prevent growth plate injuries is to limit the number of high intensity pitches thrown by pitchers with immature growth plates.

Does the product accomplish its goal?

You can probably tell by the title of this post that the answer is a resounding, "No." The biggest and most obvious problem with this product is that elbow flexion has nothing to do with the position of the shoulder (glenohumeral) joint. Go ahead and bend your elbow to near 90 degrees. See how many different positions you can put your arm in - above your shoulder, below your shoulder, in front of your body, behind your body, and so on. As long as your elbow is flexed between 85 and 90 degrees, the ThrowMAX will tell you that you are throwing correctly no matter how high or low your elbow actually is.

There's also a key scientific fact missed in their discussion of how valgus stress ruins elbows. That fact is that valgus stress is at its peak when the elbow is flexed near 90 degrees1. This directly refutes their claim that the ThrowMAX reduces valgus stress. [This study and the physics that add to it are discussed in my article - Biomechanics: Ulnar Collateral Ligament.]

One thing that actually is accomplished is the shortening of the pitching arm lever which reduces horizontal flexion torque at the shoulder (glenohumeral) joint and helps limit stress in the anterior capsule.

Here's a brief list of other interesting claims from their website:

[T]he brace actually shows how to throw a curve, riser, sinker without damaging arms. This is because on [sic] all of these "junk" throws still must use some type of proper arm slot.

[T]he weakest point in the arm is the elbow area... The shoulder is the second weakest area...

[O]nce players learn to throw correctly [sic] they learn to recognize a throw based off of arm slot, [sic] or rotation of the ball. Using these skills, players can learn to hit with more consistency because they will begin to accurately recognize what's being thrown.

Since the brace has the body go through the full-range of motions on every throw, coaches cannot arm the ball meaning they won't get tired and drop the elbow leading to pain.

To have a look at this questionable product for yourself, click here, but please, don't buy this.

Do you know of another stupid pitching product out there? Tell me about it.

References

  1. Morrey BF, An KN. Articular and ligamentous contributions to the stability of the elbow joint. Am J Sports Med. 1983; 11:315-9.
Monday
Jun152009

Please, don't buy this: Zip Trainer

A few months back, I posted an entry about the Zip Curveball Trainer and why it is an awful product. At the time, I was aware that the regular Zip Trainer existed, but I assumed it couldn't possibly be worse than the Zip Curveball Trainer. I finally read about it, and I was dead wrong.

The Zip Trainer (Source: ziptrainer.com)The product is "designed" to promote wrist flexion as a proper part of a powerful pitch release. Like the Zip Curveball Trainer, though, the Zip Trainer teaches it backwards. The device actually trains its users to extend their wrists as they prepare to release the ball.

The tension applied by the Zip Trainer creates an eccentric contraction that strengthens the extensor muscles of the forearm rather than the muscles of the flexor-pronator mass.

One advantage of increased strength in the extensor muscles is that the muscles will be able to handle greater loads during deceleration. This means that after using the Zip Trainer, a pitcher will likely develop faster, more powerful wrist action because the forearm will be better conditioned to slow the hand down after the pitch is thrown.

So why is this bad? When a muscle or group of muscles contracts during joint action (flexion or extension), the brain prevents the opposing muscle(s) from contracting simultaneously. This is called reciprocal inhibition. This means that while the extensor muscles are extending the wrist, the flexor-pronator mass can not contract to support the ulnar collateral ligament.

Because this device teaches wrist extension prior to pitch release, pitchers who use this device "properly" place themselves at an increased risk for UCL injuries.

But wait! There's more!

The product page also offers tips on how to use the Zip Trainer to throw a slider. By moving the finger loops onto different fingers, the Zip Trainer can also teach its users to throw sliders with supinated releases.

Supinated releases do not protect against the forearm flyout flaw that is present in the arm action of most pitchers with traditional pitching mechanics. When unprotected, this flaw causes the back of the elbow to "slam closed." The collision between the olecranon of the ulna and the olecranon fossa of the humerus irritates cartilage and leads to irregular bone growth (lengthening of the ulna, bone spurs, bone chips, etc.).

To have a look at this questionable product for yourself, click here, but please, don't buy this.

Do you know of another stupid pitching product out there? Tell me about it.

Tuesday
Feb102009

Please, don't buy this: Zip Curveball Trainer

The inventors of an unusual device that uses a wrist-strap, a tension strap, and some elastic loops, claim the device trains its users "in developing the proper rotation needed to throw a curveball."

Here's an excerpt from the section that tells you how to put it on:

Bend the wrist forward and place the wrist strap on the arm below the wrist, so that tension developed from the tension strap keeps the wrist forward comfortably.

Zip Curveball Trainer (Source: ziptrainer.com)The device holds the wrist in a flexed position, but the site claims that the Zip Curveball Trainer will "quickly strengthen the arm, wrist, and finger coordination for throwing a curve."

Unfortunately, that's not how muscles get stronger. Muscles strengthen in response to resistance.

The Zip Curveball Trainer creates resistance for the extensor muscles of the forearm. For their device to do what they claim it can do, it would need to provide resistance to the flexor-pronator mass of the forearm.

Yes, the device positions the hand to the throw a traditional curveball, but it does not strengthen the muscles that are responsible for making a curveball curve.

How *not* to throw a curveball (Source: ziptrainer.com)The web site also makes an attempt to teach its readers how to throw a curveball using the diagram to the left and a brief explanation.

The diagram clearly shows an impossible release point, and this is just the beginning of the problems with their recommended delivery.

They actually recommend trying to get the ball to roll over the index finger at release, as well as throwing across the body.  These two recommendations, in particular, can be devastating to elbow health as well as shoulder health.

By trying to get the ball to roll off the index finger, a pitcher pervents himself from powerfully pronating through his release.  Combined with the mild supination of the grip, the lack of pronation causes the olecranon of the ulna to slam into the olecranon fossa of the humerus.

This irritates elbow cartilage and causes a bony tissue response that lengthens the ulna and can limit elbow extension. In young pitchers, it can cause growth plate deformation and avulsion fractures.

Throwing across the body places undue stress on the rotator cuff muscles during the deceleration phase of the delivery.

To have a look at this horrible product for yourself, click here, but please, don't buy this.

Do you know of another stupid pitching product out there? Tell me about it.