July 10, 2009 / 4:51 PM / 10 years ago

Weak shoulder in preseason ups pitcher injury risk

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Major league baseball pitchers found to have weak shoulder strength during the preseason are at increased risk for throwing injuries during the season, according to a study presented today at the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine meeting in Keystone, Colorado.

Testing a pitcher’s shoulder strength during the preseason could help identify those at risk who may benefit from a focused strength training program to prevent serious injury during the season, according to study presenter Dr. Ian Byram, a fourth year Orthopedic surgery resident at Vanderbilt Medical Center, Nashville, Tennessee.

“The ability to identify pitchers at risk for injury could be extremely valuable to a professional baseball organization,” Byram noted in a statement from the meeting.

Byram and colleagues looked at data from 144 professional baseball pitchers. “We collected preseason strength data on all major and minor league pitchers in one major league baseball organization and then followed those pitchers,” Byram told Reuters Health.

Byram’s team found that weakened external rotator muscles — part of the rotator cuff, the group of muscles and their tendons that stabilize the shoulder — were linked to an increased risk of an injury requiring surgery. The external rotator muscles are the ones that “fire during the deceleration phase of the pitching motion,” he explained.

These results, Byram said, support the theory that “weakened external rotators can cause an injury.”

The study also provides evidence of a strong association between weakness in the supraspinatus muscle — located on the top of the shoulder blade — and throwing-related injury.

“If we could identify pitchers that are weakened in the external rotators or the supraspinatus, we could then develop specific training protocols to strengthen those muscle groups and maybe prevent injury,” Byram said.

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