Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Talking curveballsPosted by Dan Novick
We don't have any in-house mechanics experts here at THT anymore (although you never know what Studes has up his sleeve), so don't expect much in the way of hardcore analysis here. A recent New York Times article by Mark Hyman outlined a study by doctors from the American Sports Medicine Institute which reportedly found that curveballs are no more stressful on a kid's arm than fastballs.
This goes completely against everything everybody knows, so it must be wrong (kidding). But there has been a lot of talk around the web since the article came out just three days ago. As soon as I read the article, I emailed Kyle Boddy of Driveline Mechanics fame to ask what he thought. He copied a response he posted elsewhere on the web, which can be found here. He says that less force applied to the arm doesn't necessarily mean that the pitch is less dangerous.
Trip Somers, whose every word on TexasLeaguers.com deeply captivates me, had a more detailed take on the study in question. He goes into great detail about specific ligaments and muscle groups interacting in different situations (throwing a curveball versus a fastball), and provides links to his glossary for when he says something like "valgus force" in the middle of a sentence, just so you don't get too lost. This take is by far the most thorough I've seen on the subject, and I haven't seen any rebuttals of the specific points Somers makes. If you have seen something that contradicts what Somers says here, post it in the comments--I'd love to see it.
In reading the comments at Tango's blog, I was pointed to a third take on the subject at hand. This one, by Graham MacAree of Lookout Landing, takes a different approach. Graham made a lot of noise when he wrote a post almost exactly a year ago entitled, "Biomechanics and You." In that post, Graham called out the so-called biomechanics experts for being too cavalier with their claims. This more recent post also calls for more discretion. I disagreed with this sentence here:
"As always, we should be moving away from the idea that we can accurately look at what motions cause/do not cause damage and towards what we actually know"
I felt that the quote contradicted what Graham said two lines later, when he wrote, "Someday, we'll be able to look at stresses in ligaments and get a good idea on which motions are detrimental and beneficial, but attempting to do so now without all the tools in place is short-sighted." If we move away from trying to figure out what motions cause or don't cause damage, then how can we accomplish what Graham says in the second quote?
I don't want to get into a debate here with people more qualified then myself, it's interesting enough just to watch it happen. But if you'd like to find out what's going on in the minds of some really smart people, I urge you to click the links above.
Dan Novick is a lifelong Yankees fan, and still gets the chills every time Enter Sandman plays from the Yankee Stadium speakers. He welcomes comments and questions via e-mail.