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December 19, 2021

Fatigue is the Enemy

Strength in Numbers #24

Everyone experiences varying levels of fatigue in training and competition, but training and competing have entirely different stress on the body.

For instance, this study showed that adding a batter and a radar gun changes the way a pitcher delivers the baseball versus standard bullpen sessions.

In games, adrenaline is higher, glucose metabolism is accelerated, and the cognitive workload is not comparable with practice.

I used to work for Brady Anderson, the former MLB outfielder who stole more than 300 bases and the former VP of Baseball Operations with the Baltimore Orioles. He would constantly mention that…

“the highest form of training is competing.”

Therefore, our training must simulate competition as best as possible to condition neuromuscular responses and cognitive performance that can be susceptible to greater fatigue versus practice when the stakes are high.

Assessing Fatigue

Metabolic fatigue is something you can feel. We have all experienced a burning feeling from the build-up metabolites when working at high intensities. We have experienced temporary hypoxia from maximal lifting where we have to sit down and breathe after putting our bodies through such high levels of systolic blood pressure. We have also experienced cognitive fatigue after writing back-to-back exams after cramming all night, not sleeping, wiring up with caffeine, and then sitting at a desk for 90 minutes and opening up your brain.

However, what we do not easily feel is nervous system fatigue.

There are two types of neural fatigue mechanisms that athletes experience with repetitive high-effort actions such as throwing 100 pitches in a game.

  1. The first is central nervous system fatigue. This type of fatigue impacts the brain’s motor cortex as less activation occurs in the brain stem to send signals to the peripheral nervous system.
  2. The second is peripheral nervous system fatigue. This refers to the signal propagation of the branches of nerves that come off the spinal cord that innervate the skeletal muscle.

Defending Against Fatigue

An athlete’s level of conditioning and recoverability impact how these two fatigue designations interfere with movement and movement outcomes such as velocity and command.

It’s believed that weaker athletes who throw at high velocities are most susceptible to injury when under a state of central and peripheral fatigue. More than likely, these athletes are elastically driven, meaning they are achieving velocity through stretching and less about muscle recruitment which is affected by neural fatigue. These athletes could be both large and small in stature, but the main crux of it is that their strength is relatively low and changes in movement alter the tissue’s ability to dynamically stabilize joints that lead to a lowering in the Strength -Velocity Ratio (SVR).

SVR is the ratio that compares total arm strength to the maximum velocity achieved. With central and peripheral nervous system fatigue, there is a high likelihood that strength reduces relative to velocity, exposing the athlete to risk.

Our best defense to understand the level of fatigue experienced by the throwing arm is to evaluate post-game strength loss. 

If the maximum game velocities are recorded, it would be easy to see if athletes’ SVRs were significantly altered. And if you have motion capture in games, you could also cross-reference biomechanical changes that are potentially associated with a drop in SVR.

Biomechanical changes could be a change in arm abduction at foot contact or reduced internal shoulder rotation velocities. These are movement-based alerts that coaches can review to interpret how fatigable an athlete is and how compensation is related to changes in SVR

Training the nervous system to maximize performance and minimize neural fatigue through higher levels of recruitment can help reduce the degree of change in throwing arm mechanics and maintain SVR throughout games.

There is so much to be discovered in fatigue-science as it relates to pitching, but strength monitoring is the most accessible and actionable approach.

How are you assessing fatiguability in your athletes right now?  If you are not, what is holding you back from unleashing the power of the platform?

The technology and metrics may be intimidating to you, but look no further, as we have our Certified ArmCare Specialist Course up and ready to go.  We will give you a deep perspective on using dynamometry, assessment and creating individualized programs, as well as how the technology with external workload tracking and 3D biomechanics.

You can see the course highlights here to begin your journey into elevating your coaching and diagnostic skills.

Click here to learn more! 

Give yourself a competitive advantage and fight fatigue through ArmCareU!