The Hip Bone’s Connected to the… Elbow?

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Add this one to the category of things that are interesting, but not really surprising… The other day I came across an article that cited a recent study where researchers examined the relationship between hip mobility and and injury risk for pitchers.

In pitching injuries, the elbow is connected to the hip bone

Over the years, there have been a number of studies looking at the link between hip mobility, rotation and pitching velocity. For example:

Passive ranges of motion of the hips and their relationship with pitching biomechanics and ball velocity in professional baseball pitchers
Robb AJ1, Fleisig G, Wilk K, Macrina L, Bolt B, Pajaczkowski J.

What’s a little different in this case is that the researchers are looking at the link between hip mobility and risk of elbow injury. Or more specifically, limited hip mobility and the signs of mechanical issues known to lead to added stress on the elbow.

Basically, we know from studies that certain mechanical factors are associated with increased stress on the elbow. I won’t dive deep into it here, but if you’re interested in the subject this piece in the July 2009 issue of “Sports Health” is worth a read:

Baseball Pitching Biomechanics in Relation to Injury Risk and Performance
Dave Fortenbaugh, MS, Glenn S. Fleisig, PhD,* and James R. Andrews, MD

One of the studies cited there looked specifically at two of those factors – lateral trunk tilt (or leaning over to your glove side) and shoulder abduction.

Influence of shoulder abduction and lateral trunk tilt on peak elbow varus torque for college baseball pitchers during simulated pitching
Matsuo T, Fleisig G

Now the idea of hip mobility having an impact on your pitching delivery is nothing new if you’ve followed my site. It’s why I’m a big believer that in addition to Motion Analysis, pitchers should also get a complete physical assessment to uncover any strength or mobility deficiencies.

It’s why I’m also a big fan of adding yoga to your training if you’ve got balance, flexibility or mobility issues.

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But it’s just further confirmation of how important role your hips play in your pitching delivery. Here’s the key part in the article that stood out for me:

“UF researchers correlated the hip range of motion to what they already knew could risk injury, and found that the less range of motion in their hips that pitchers had, the higher the risk to the pitchers’ arms. Pitchers unknowingly compensate for limited range of motion in their hips, which could place more torque on their elbows.”

As a pitcher, so much of your power comes from lower half and achieving good hip to shoulder separation. If you’re limited in your hip mobility, not only are you more likely to open up early… you’ll also probably try and make up for it somewhere else, either by leaning way over or reaching back with your throwing arm…

Bottom Line? It’s All Connected!
As I’ve said before, you don’t want to let mobility and flexibility issues hold you back. If you’ve got access to a great strength and conditioning coach who knows baseball like Josh Heenan, get assessed! If you can’t get checked in person, I highly recommend checking out Gray Cook’s Functional Movement Screen or Eric Cressey and Mike Reinold’s Assess & Correct.

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Comments

  1. Forrest Irwin  May 21, 2014

    Great article, and good resources. I’ve believed this for a long time and truly believe that if you have good hip flexibility and mobility, the body can gain ground and transfer weight efficiently. This limits torque on the elbow but also allows for good extension. This in turn will deliver a better angle and more movement. So it’s effective and efficient. Sprints and strong vertical jumps are great ways to improve range of motion, hip flexors, and stability in the hips. As well as good squat technique in the weight room.

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