Moving from 8th to 9th grade is a huge step in a student’s life. Not only does one have to get used to being a high schooler and adjusting to new classes, but for the baseball player, there is another big adjustment to be made – transitioning to the “big field”. Bases stretch from 60 feet up to 90 feet, and the pitcher’s mound increases from 46 feet to 60 feet, 6 inches. There is a lot that these young baseball players can work on to not only avoid injury during this transition, but also perform better. In this article, we will discuss some of these concepts. Stay tuned for future posts which will outline exercises to help.
What worked on the little league field doesn’t always work on the big field
At the little league level, some athletes are much bigger than others. We are all familiar with the Little League World Series when one team has a 6’4, 220 pound 12 year old playing against “typical” 12 year olds. That athlete has a distinct advantage because they are bigger and stronger. This size advantage makes it easier for the player to muscle the ball to the plate faster and swing harder. When the field dimensions change, these athletes often have a tough time adjusting to using their entire body and struggle to make that transition. Athletes who learn to use their entire body will adapt much easier to this transition.
What is the kinetic chain
When a player throws or hits, most people think about the ball moving forward or the bat swinging. These motions have several components to them:
- The athlete must initiate the movement from their back leg
- The core and trunk must rotate in the right order, allowing the arms to come through and throw or swing
- The core and lead leg must decelerate the motion.
If there is a breakdown along this chain, stress will be placed on the shoulder, elbow, back, or any area along the chain that is trying to over-produce. This is why the 6’4 12 year old dominates at one level but struggles at the next. Most likely, he never learned to initiate and decelerate the throwing or swinging motion correctly, and his shoulder or elbow breaks down at the next level because he is trying to throw hard. If an athlete develops a good core and leg program, he will throw harder at this level and use his body properly, without over-throwing.
What can you do this summer?
This is a key summer to get adjusted to the larger dimensions of the big field. There are key exercise professionals who can help with learning the proper way to use your body to throw and hit.
Personal trainers – Those who are experienced in baseball will develop a program that will build strength and proper movements
Yoga – There is no better exercise program to enable flexibility and, most importantly, to control those movements. The baseball players who have longer stride lengths and can rotate better will maximize their velocity and minimize their risk of injury
Physical Therapists – You don’t always have to see a PT until after you are already injured. A lot of Physical Therapists who are trained in baseball will be able to develop a treatment program to improve mobility and strength in baseball specific movements. This pre-hab is, at times, done in conjunction with personal training. It is important for these professionals to have a good relationship to optimize communication.
Chiropractors – Adjustments can help with spinal alignment and mobility, and some sports chiropractors will also incorporate stretching and strengthening programs into their treatment regimen
Coaches – Pitching and hitting coaches can work with mechanics and maximize both hitting and throwing technique
This summer is an important time for athletes adjusting from little league dimensions to the big league fields. There are exercises that are important to learn to facilitate proper mechanics. The ultimate pay off will be improved hitting and throwing with decreased risk for injury. Many fitness and medical professionals can help these athletes with this transition. Please stay tuned for our next post which will highlight a few key exercises to begin immediately.
Ken Guzzardo, PT, DPT, OCS, SCS
3 Dimensional Physical Therapy
Medford, West Berlin, Haddonfield
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