Build UCL Strength to Protect Yourself From Tommy John Surgery

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Have you ever described a pitcher’s delivery as stressful, violent, choppy, and think they must be at a greater risk of injury? Or, like many coaches and sports scientists, you may assume that the athlete with greater elbow torque must have a more stressful delivery.  If so, you may be labeling the athlete incorrect.  There’s more to the story between stress and load and you can actually reduce stress by building UCL strength.  In this article, we will tackle the topic of stress and load and cover how one doesn’t necessarily equal the other.

What is Stress?

Stress involves force, but the proportions that the force is exerted also matters. . It’s calculated mathematically as force divided by the cross-sectional area, with a bigger number being more stressful.

Reduce UCL Stress

Based on this equation, stress increases if force goes up or if the cross-sectional area of the tissue goes down.

Therefore, to assess a stressful delivery, we would have to know the cross-sectional area of tendons and ligaments that stabilize the medial elbow to be sure.  In many cases, pitchers with a funky delivery often stay healthy because their tissues’ cross-sectional area is large enough to handle the tension, and strength training helps with that relationship.

If you improve arm strength you also increase in tissue size.  Muscles, tendons, and ligaments all increase thickness and resistance to tensile stress.  As a result, when pitchers strength train, they lessen mechanical stress by increasing the size of their ulnar collateral ligament (the ligament repaired by Tommy John Surgery) and the tendons and muscles that support the medial elbow (the forearm flexor-pronator mass).

On the flip side, when muscles become weak and atrophy, stress increases due to less tissue area, leading to forearm strains and ligament sprains regardless of the elbow torque applied.

This science is a solid underlying concept for our platform.  We know that a player has the greatest chance to lower mechanical stress through data-led training to maximize their arm strength, and it’s safer than changing arm path or significantly adjusting mechanics.

Watch this video to learn how to strengthen and reduce stress to your UCL.  It will help you understand ways of increasing fiber size for ligaments, tendons, and muscles.  Then for more ways to keep pushing performance without breaking down see how Assessment Based ArmCare creates customized training programs.

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