Over the past two weeks, I told you why I hate the word “efficiency”, why you should hate the word “efficiency”, and gave you only two definitions of efficiency (Pitch Efficiency and Biomechanical Efficiency) that could shed a little light on the shade I had thrown on the word.
Now, this segment will make YOU more “efficient” than ever.
You will be able to do more with less, more performance with less time wasted, more return on investment with less money expended, more concise communication, and less fluff.
To continue with Biomechanical Efficiency Grading (BEG), I am going to discuss the results of our research paper that was accepted by the American Journal of Sports Medicine.
I know you are probably thinking, why would we publish something so coach-heavy in a sports medicine journal?
The simple answer is that it is the most well-read journal in baseball biomechanics in the world and goes through four reviewers instead of two to get it published. That means four people must agree with your science, rationale, and impact that your article brings to the world of health and human performance.
It’s tough publishing in academic journals. You get your teeth kicked in, confidence crushed, and at times told you are a moron in a sage-like way from the blinded reviewers criticizing everything about your manuscript.
But strangely, the manuscript we submitted, “Biomechanical Predictors of Pitch Efficiency in Professional and Collegiate Pitchers,” was accepted with very minimal corrections.
I think the reason being is that sports medicine doctors are trying to find a way to capture the biomechanical relevance of velocity enhancement in their practice, trying to make sense if weighted ball training is actually health-promoting rather than destructive, as most are seeing torn-up arms from velocity enhancement.
While most of the world celebrates it, throwing harder is by far the most direct cause of throwing arm injuries out of anything ever published on the subject of throwing arm injuries.
WHAT YOU CAN LOOK FOR TO ENSURE SAFE VELOCITY ENHANCEMENT
I will not go through every detail we found in our study. You’ll just have to read it, but I will talk about the arm.
We had a collection of variables that, together with multiple linear regressions, we could explain 27% of the change in BEG.
That is a big deal as a quarter of what is expressed as MPH relative to normalized elbow torque can be captured through kinematics (joint positions mainly), meaning that many over-the-counter biomechanics products could be suitable in some ways to identify how to enhance velocity with less relative elbow torque.
This is our greatest chance so far to maximize performance and minimize injury from a biomechanical standpoint, as it is not competitively practical to coach your athlete to throw slower in favor of reducing arm loading, as that will lessen efficiency, as the athlete could potentially do less with more loading on the elbow joint.
After determining PRO guys had greater BEG than college guys, we looked at the extremes to see the greatest kinematic differences hinging on being biomechanically efficient. These are significant differences (p<0.02) seen in 545 pitchers:
ARM POSITIONS LEAD TO GREATER BEG
Some of these visualizations are likely intuitive, and some may not be, but you can see the line is very fine, and I do believe this means a 3D motion capture approach with markers would be best to delineate differences in BEG.
That said, markerless systems are getting better and more consistent and can collect far more data, so I expect markerless will be able to detect these small changes (less than 3 degrees change) that could greatly impact BEG over time.
We still have more work to do, but this first exploration at the highest level of competition has compelling results that we are on the right path.
APPLY THIS KNOWLEDGE
Now that I laid out how to evaluate BEG, you now have some arm-related parameters to explore with your athletes that can change and be modified to improve BEG. There are many important concepts to unpack here in intersecting motor preference, strength, performance outcomes, and mechanics.
For this reason, we will be making a Certified Pitching Biomechanist Course to help you navigate what to do and what not to do when you see changes in BEG.
For example, if an athlete shows a reduction in max layback – NEVER STRETCH THEM INTO GREATER EXTERNAL ROTATION RANGES.
The shoulder is a mystery in biomechanical models, as the center of rotation is deep inside the scapula, which cannot be modeled accurately, and therefore, the maximum layback calculation is an expression of combined thoracic extension, shoulder blade position, humeral rotation, and translation of the humeral head.
Notice how I mentioned thoracic extension first. That is the path of least resistance to improving range of motion without making the shoulder joint lax, which could put stress on the elbow (think of the elbow as the hinge in a catapult and pulling on the lever arm another 10 degrees before it tosses a boulder will stress the springs).
Too much to talk about here from a mechanics perspective, but you can see how the quantified information must have a process that improves performance and does not jeopardize athlete health, as data-informed coaching decisions are critical, but also fact-checking them with a change in strength.
BE AN EFFICIENT COACH RIGHT NOW!
I mentioned that these small changes in arm position (some only 3 degrees) could impact BEG – causing the athlete to do less with more physical costs.
Well, if you can maintain joint positions at key events in the delivery, you have a chance to make your loading consistent and delivery repeatable, especially when it comes to release point.
A consistent release point leads to greater Pitch Efficiency, and with greater Pitch Efficiency, you are throwing the ball less without sacrificing competitive opportunities, and therefore, the overuse side of the equation is put in check.
By evaluating strength and ensuring it’s at its highest level, the arm will fatigue less, and will not slip into doing less with more, or lowering BEG (less layback, pushier, elbow hiking, etc.)
If you cannot afford to do a full biomechanical screen or do not have precise tools to evaluate a potential change of 3 degrees, have no fear, monitor throwing arm strength, velocity, and release point, and you should get a good idea about what’s going on and if your athlete is doing less with more and throwing more per inning.
In this podcast, Kaylee Shores, former AT at Stephen F. Austin and new AT at UCF, is living the essence of coaching efficiency. She collects high-quality strength data to look at pitching metrics that are outcome driven.
In two minutes, she can screen players to determine if their long-lever strength had suffered and if velocity had declined and put them on a plan to advance performance.
My bet is when you restore arm strength and prevent fatigue, the athlete has to see BEG climb. Kaylee had shown this relationship with our Arm Primer Tests, as strength and velocity increased linearly.
Future work is needed to intersect biomechanics and strength data, but understand the meaning of our podcast “More Than Velocity”, as unlike 3D technologies, strength testing will take you further as it impacts mechanics, allows for increased and sustainable velocity, encourages throwing accuracy, maintains release point consistency and provides an opportunity to train athletes safely within weighted ball programs.
There’s a lot we unpacked here but reach out if you have any specific questions and stay tuned for more on why you should have a “Strength First-Mechanics Second” coaching approach.
STRENGTH MATTERS MOST, and be more efficient.