Pitching Stage Six: Elbow Flexion
As pressure is applied toward the hip by the glove arm, after maximum front side tilt, the humerous bone turns over and the forearm begins moving toward the plate. As the ball enters the straight-line path to the plate, the pitcher’s elbow needs to have less than 90-degree flexion. If a pitcher has more than 90 degree flexion, chances are, they are going to experience extreme soreness in their pitching elbow. The elbow, isolated due to decreased flexion, causes this soreness. If prematurely extended, the elbow receives no support from the bicep and forearm. With the violent forward force and weight from the ball, pitchers force their elbow to carry most of workload. Dr. Mike Marshall calls this practice “Reserve Forearm Bounce”. There are many pictures that illustrate this mechanical flaw. A pitcher, who has premature extension or “Reserve Forearm Bounce”, often at foot plant display a large lag in the forearm. The pitcher’s lagging forearm bounces, once the body continues forward to deliver the pitch. Since the elbow is such a small joint, it cannot tolerate the stress of being isolated and starts to distribute force to the delicate surrounding ligaments and tissue. At this step, pitchers are likely to be seriously injured.
By having proper flexion, like the illustrations above, pitchers are able to rely on the bicep and forearm to apply force to the ball. Also, the elbow is supported, as the pitcher delivers to the plate. Furthermore, by practicing good elbow flexion, pitchers can release the ball closer to home plate. Releasing closer to home plate creates a competitive advantage for the pitcher, increasing velocity and cutting the hitters reaction time to the pitch. Finally, practicing adequate elbow flexion will help pitchers throw a legitimate vertical breaking ball, instead of a horizontal spinning slider or slurve.