The phrase, “There’s an app for that,” has become somewhat of a punchline among pop culture. With technology being what it is, and with almost everyone in existence owning either an Android or iPhone device, there literally is an application for just about everything. What if there was one to prevent pitchers from having to get Tommy John surgery?
So far there have been 45 cases of necessary Tommy John surgery at the Major and Minor league level. That is astounding and completely off the charts high. As stars like Jose Fernandez, Ivan Nova, Martin Perez, Josh Johnson, Brandon Beachy, Jarrod Parker and multitudinous others have succumbed to the repair of the Ulnar Collateral Ligament, discussions around Major League Baseball began to take place.
What was the problem? It all must have stemmed from when these pitchers were younger. What was it though? The answer was clearly up for debate. Reasons ranging from throwing too hard to not throwing hard enough, from throwing too often to not throwing often enough, and from throwing curveballs as opposed to changeups rose from the minds of some of the game’s most respected analysts and physicians. Everyone agreed on one thing though – the cultivation and development of arms at a young age definitely contributes heavily to whether a pitcher will need Tommy John surgery at around the age all of these pitchers are having it done.
Dr. James Andrews is of the mind that the problem is mostly two-fold – young, underdeveloped arms are trying to light up radar guns to impress scouts instead of focusing on pitching mechanics and arm slots AND young, underdeveloped arms are pitching more than even the Major League, major money stars do and don’t give their arms and elbows the proper rest. How does one fix that? Well, there’s no shot or pill that can be taken to remedy something as simple, yet difficult, as discipline.
Discipline is not throwing as hard as you can even though there may be scouts (and parents…) present. Discipline is focusing on HOW to throw a ball instead of how HARD to throw the ball. Discipline is tracking how much you’ve thrown and pitched and when to cut it out for the week. To track something…well, as ESPN.com says, there’s an app for that.
Dr. Andrews and physical therapist Dr. Kevin Wilk have designed an app, called “Throw Like a Pro” that is specifically designed to calculate an appropriate number of pitches to throw in a session as well as how much rest in between sessions is recommended based upon the age of the user. The app will also contain data and suggestions on how to improve and properly train your arm at different stages in its development. Pre-season guides, video demonstrations and various exercises will also be included in the iOS designed app.
“Hopefully this will help them to play at peak performance without injury,” Wilk said, “so they can pursue their baseball aspirations in a healthy manner.”
“I’m really excited,” Andrews said. “For the first time, kids and parents everywhere will have access to the information and routines that we hope will put an end to this epidemic.”
Obviously pro scouts will see the practical use with the pitch counter and rest tracker, but the most valuable feature of this app is going to be the advice and prescribed routine from the absolute best in the business in Dr. James Andrews. It’s often said that pitchers and Tommy John surgery are akin to ticking time bombs, meaning that there is a certain inevitability to a pitcher needing some sort of arm surgery – after all, the motion of pitching is an unnatural one for the human body. With “Throw Like a Pro” however, the kind of epidemic that baseball has seen this year – once again, that’s 45 Tommy John surgeries by the end of May – will hopefully be avoided.