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Pre-Season Test Spots Baseball Pitchers at Risk of Injury
Date:3/11/2010

Weakness in rotator cuff a warning sign, but exercise regimens can help, experts say

THURSDAY, March 11 (HealthDay News) -- As another baseball season nears, researchers report that preseason measurements of rotator cuff strength can help team doctors spot those pitchers at high risk of developing a shoulder injury during play.

"We found certain parts of the rotator cuff where, if they are weaker, players are more likely to incur injury that requires surgery," said lead author Dr. Ian Byram, an orthopedic resident physician at Nashville's Vanderbilt Medical Center.

Shoulder and elbow injuries are the two most common types of injuries for professional pitchers, and they are the two leading reasons for pitchers landing on the disabled list, Byram noted.

Famous pitchers on that list have included some who came back from their injury -- such as Pedro Martinez, who pitched for the Philadelphia Phillies last season -- and some who never made it back -- like Los Angeles Dodgers Hall of Famer Don Drysdale.

In the study, Byram and colleagues followed pitchers playing for the Colorado Rockies over a five-year period from 2001 to 2005, testing their strength using a device called a dynamometer as the players performed four different shoulder exercises.

Pitchers who displayed muscle weakness in one of three exercises during the preseason were at risk of suffering an in-season shoulder injury that would require surgery, Byram said.

The exercises that helped predict shoulder injury included prone external rotation (lying face down on a bench and rotating the arm), seated external rotation (similar exercise while seated) and supraspinatus (an upper arm muscle) lifts.

Pitchers also were at high risk of shoulder injury if the internal rotation strength in their shoulders had outpaced their external rotation strength.

"When there's a relatively overstrengthened internal rotation, t
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