Tom Willemann Health Tips

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Do curve or breaking balls in Little League lead to shoulder or elbow pain?

NO!  At least one recent study doesn’t support that idea.
The University of North Carolina’s Department of Exercise and Sports Science performed a study ,funded by a grant from the Yawkey foundation, that attempted to answer the question of whether “curve balls” or “breaking” balls lead to increased chance of pitching arm injuries.
Over the course of five years the researchers studied more than 400 pitchers in three groups: little league, high school and college.  Key findings:
  • Previous injury increases risk of reinjury at shoulder and elbow 5 times
  • Showcase and Select teams participation increased risk of shoulder and elbow injuries in Little League and High School Pitchers
  • Must rapidly address subtle signs of injury or overuse
  • Very difficult to control of the “volume of play” with multiple league play (ie select, travel teams, etc)

What can you do to prevent pitching injury?

  • Insist on pitch counts that have decreased Little League injuries by %50
  • Teach proper pitching technique
  • Control “volume of play” with adequate rest is essential.  Multiple league play (ie Select, travel teams, etc) makes controlling volume of play more difficult.
  • Identify early, subtle signs of injury or overuse
  • Education of coaches, parents, players on risks

As noted above, the study showed no evidence “curves” or “breaking” balls increased arm injuries in pitchers!
Many times my role as a sports and orthopedic physical therapist is educating the athletes on conditions that can lead to injury. Numerous times I have been asked to figure out how to rehabilitate an athlete in a very limited window of time.  At times physical therapy visits have been cancelled or not scheduled because of conflicts with batting or pitching private lessons.  I almost fall over when I have just discussed the overuse issues with the players and parents just prior to this.
The irony of this situation is that, as a small business owner in addition to a physical therapist, having more visits actually benefits my clinic.  But if I contributed to the need for more visits by not trying to convince clients of the need for adequate rest, I would be doing a disservice to everyone I treat. Our aim at Apex is always to do what is best for our clients. I always note this paradigm when I feel I’m not being heard when talking to young athletes and parents.

I recently gave the Rutgers Coaches’ “Safety Talk” for the Wyckoff Recreation Department and provided them with a table on the probability of playing in college or professional sports.  The statistics are pretty discouraging.  Only a select few make it to the College level and fewer receive scholarships, let alone full scholarships. Student-athletes in demanding academic programs face a grueling college experience. Make sure your athlete is truly in it for the “love of the game”, not the scholarship or the promise of professional glory.  

Tom Willemann

Tom Willemann

Tom Willemann is a premier physical therapist based out of Bergen County, New Jersey. He holds an MS in physical therapy from the University of Miami, is credentialed in the world-renowned McKenzie Method of Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy (MDT), and holds an OCS (Orthopedic Clinical Specialist) certification. As of 2018, there are approximately 14,000 ABPTS certified specialists in the nation and less than 400 of them are located in the state of New Jersey. Tom is the owner and director of Apex Orthopedic Rehabilitation in Paramus. He opened the clinic, which specializes in spine and sports injury prevention, in 2004 after many years of experience in the field. Tom’s caring interest in others and his strong belief in continuity of care, combined with his clinic’s ability to find solutions for the most difficult orthopedic problems, have earned Apex Orthopedic Rehabilitation its excellent reputation with patients and medical professionals in northeastern New Jersey and beyond. A true “family man,” Tom takes pride in his clinic’s warm and welcoming environment.
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