ChrisOLeary.com > ... > Baseball > Pitching > Rethinking Pitching > Essays > Hyperabduction

Hyperabduction

9/16/2007
Updated 9/10/2008

Some people believe that is is critical that pitchers get their Pitching Arm Side (aka PAS) elbow up above the level of their shoulders at the high-cocked position because they believe that this will help to raise the pitcher's arm slot. I believe that doing this, which I call Hyperabduction, leads to problems with the rotator cuff and/or the Labrum. What's more, because a pitcher's arm slot is a function of their shoulder tilt and not the height of their PAS elbow at the high-cocked position, following this advice with do absolutely nothing to alter a pitcher's arm slot.
     I believe that, after they break their hands, pitchers should always keep their PAS elbows below the level of their shoulders, as Greg Maddux is doing in the photos below.

Greg Maddux

Greg Maddux

Greg Maddux

Greg Maddux

If they want to raise their arm slot, then they should focus on tilting their shoulders at the release point as Jeff Suppan is doing in the photo below. Notice how his PAS elbow is just below the level of his shoulders (the white line).

Jeff Suppan

I believe it does a pitcher no good, and a great deal of harm, to try to get their PAS elbow up as their PAS upper arm passes through the high cocked position, as Adam Wainwright is doing in the photo below.

Adam Wainwright

Below are pictures of pitchers who Hyperabduct their PAS upper arms and who I believe either are due for -- or in the case of Freddy Garcia, Jonathan Papelbon, Mark Prior, and Billy Wagner are already experiencing -- shoulder problems as a result.

Freddy Garcia

Freddy Garcia

I used to be a big fan of Freddy Garcia. I still like how early he gets his PAS arm up into the high cocked position. However, his recent shoulder problems have led me to re-examine his mechanics and what I have come to notice is how high his PAS elbow gets. I believe that this could be related to Freddy Garcia's recent shoulder problems.

Jeremy Bonderman

Jeremy Bonderman

Cole Hamels

Cole Hamels

Jonathan Papelbon

Jonathan Papelbon

Mark Prior

Mark Prior

Adam Wainwright

Adam Wainwright

Professional Acceptance
My belief that Hyperabduction, and the Inverted W, are bad has seen some acceptance by the professional medical community. For example, here is an e-mail I received in April of 2007...

Chris I am an orthopedic surgeon, and would like to offer you a theory on why the inverted W is bad to the long term health of the shoulder.
     In the position of hyper abduction, elevation and extension of the distal humerus above the shoulder (inverted W) the inferior glenohumeral ligament is placed on stretch. The humeral head must lever against it to advance the arm forward. This ligament is the primary anterior stabilizer of the glenohumeral joint with the arm elevated (i.e. pitching). In other words, this position places this ligament under tension, then it is levered against in order to throw. This eventually will either loosen the shoulder, or tear the anterior labrum. It should be recognized this ligament is under stress during the "normal" delivery. If you traumatically dislocate your shoulder, this ligament is a key part of the pathology. 
Shoulder instability in turn leads to impingement, and other problems. Conversely, when the elbow is below the shoulder, this ligament would not be as stressed.
Also, the specific use and timing of the muscles about the shoulder is critical. They have done muscle activity studies during throwing, and there are distinct differences between amateurs and professionals. There is also evidence for muscle use differences in the healthy shoulders, and the ones that aren't.

I'm not sure he's exactly right about why this is bad, but what he says is interesting enough to make me think I'm on to something.

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