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Does the Pitcher’s Mound Cause Injuries?

moundBack in 1969 the height of the pitcher‘s mound was lowered from 15″ down to 10″ in an attempt by major league baseball to level the playing ground between the era’s dominant pitching and the effect they were having on batters. Hitters were at an all time low for batting average of .237 the year before (1968).

Last year, research was done concerning the possible negative affect this 10″ mound has on a pitcher’s arm, elbow and shoulder. The analysis starts out by mentioning how pitchers in years gone by threw more complete games at the 15″ mound height, but noted that careers were significantly shorter as a possible result of this combination. Then refocuses it’s analysis on the stress that is induced upon a pitcher’s arm, elbow and shoulder given the necessary motion that is needed to throw a baseball at such high velocities as is seen in MLB games in an effective manner to get batters out from the height in which the pitches are now thrown from (10″).

With the investment (that would be their salaries) that teams ans ownerships are making in pitchers, there has become a trend to protect (some may call it babying) those young expensive arms if not the man himself. It has gotten to the point of seriousness that this report claims that MLB actually funded this medical investigation, led by the Milwaukee Brewers head team physician, William Raasch, M.D.

The article (link to be found at the end of this post) is enhanced by two streaming videos that show a pitcher’s motion (one is skeletal while the other is a wire frame model).

“We found that compared to flat ground, pitchers using a 10-inch mound experience an increase in superior shear and adduction torque in the shoulder – meaning there’s a greater amount of stress on the joint surface and surrounding structures. That greater stress may result in injury to the shoulder including tearing of the rotator cuff or labrum which may result in surgery and long-term rehabilitation. It also can make it difficult for the athlete to replicate the same throw and develop a consistent strike,” Dr. Raasch says.

They think that it would be better if rehabbing pitchers threw off level ground more often until they are closer to being game ready. It was also noted that Hall of Fame pitcher, Nolan Ryan (now in the Texas Rangers management system), who player for 27 years, attributed his longevity to this practice of throwing off flat ground in his latter years out of preference because it just felt better as he got older to do so and he was throwing 100 mph into his 40′s. The hope my the research team would be for players to follow Ryan’s example for the sake of the game and their bodies.

The results of this study is said to have been presented at the 2007 MLB winter meetings. You can read this article, Lower Pitcher’s Mound Will Reduce Baseball Injuries – Study by the News Staff of Scientific Blogging from March of 2008.

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7 Comments

  1. RBI Magazine

    January 27, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    Great article! It is very interesting how pitcher’s careers were shorter when the mound was still 15″” high, but yet more complete games were thrown…

    Please check out RBI Magazine’s last blog post..Red Sox Give Jason Varitek Saturday Deadline!

  2. ct

    January 28, 2009 at 12:12 pm

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    • Peter Schiller

      January 28, 2009 at 1:55 pm

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  3. Matt

    January 31, 2009 at 2:24 am

    Very interesting stuff and it definitely makes sense.

    Please check out Matt’s last blog post..There’s 2 Men’s Finals In The Aussie Open This Weekend…!

  4. Woo

    May 9, 2010 at 10:08 pm

    Howdy, I have never been on your site and I was looking to see how much of a difference there was in the mound height after the ’68 season. I have to disagree that there was any set height previously and I say this because when pitchers got on the Dodger mounds in L.A. at night, they could see Vegas from there. I really think that Walter Alston was a master that you younger guys missed. He was a baseball man thru and thru, and knew that pitching and defense won games. Then you add a little manicure to the infield, and Maury Wills lays one down and 2 pitches later he was on third. One pop fly later it is 1-0 and it is game over if Koufax is pitching. But Drysdale was the monster on the mound and he would throw so far inside and he was so big that it was a John Kruk moment for an awful lot of NL batters. It is when baseball was the real game, and I lived every second of it. I even had a baseball factory in my home town that sold seconds for 1/2 a buck. AAAAAHHHHH!!!!!!

  5. Shaun Cochran

    March 11, 2011 at 7:00 pm

    GREAT article! really opened my eyes to the resons behind the increase in pitcher used per year in the MLB. The spike which started right around the late 50′s and mid to late 60′s has since dramatically risen in the past 30 years from near two hundred up to nearly 400!! It does make sense considering the increase in teams and the increase in salaries which means the owners definitely want to protect their investments. I dont think this is harming baseball. I think it is helping baseball. I would much rather see my favorite pitchers last twice as long in their careers and pitch twice as many innings rather than have a few more complete games in their careers. Anyone who complains about there not being enough complete games thrown and that the relief pitching isnt good enough and cost pitchers too many games has no understanding of this concept.

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