Want to know why the rate of arm injuries and Tommy John surgeries will continue to rise, despite mountains of research and science available to reverse the trend?
This one sentence by Zack Wheeler explains it all:
“You’re not supposed to be throwing like we throw, so stuff is going to happen.”
The quote comes courtesy of Mets beat writer Maria Guardado from a recent article in NJ.com reporting on Wheeler’s rehab from Tommy John surgery and the general health (or lack thereof) of the Mets’ young starting pitchers.
The full quote goes like this:
“You want to because it would be a freakin’ bad rotation,” Wheeler said. “But it’s baseball. You’re not supposed to be throwing like we throw, so stuff is going to happen. Hopefully we can all get up there and be healthy.”
Based on what Wheeler has said in the media in the past, I know what he’s saying by “You’re not supposed to be throwing like we throw, so stuff is going to happen.” He’s inferring that because he and his fellow flamethrowing Mets teammates can light up the radar gun north of 95 MPH, arm injuries are inevitable.
That’s both a sad and absolutely incorrect assumption. Yet, it’s one that is widely accepted throughout baseball, at every level, often by people who otherwise display intelligence.
But again, it’s DEAD WRONG.
Ironically, Wheeler IS correct in his statement — he just doesn’t know why. To Wheeler, arm injuries “happen” out of the thin air because pitchers throw hard. But in truth, EVERY SINGLE UCL TEAR THAT EVER OCCURRED IN THE HISTORY OF BASEBALL can be traced to a mechanical flaw. And it just so happens that New York Mets pitchers Matt Harvey, NOah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, and Wheeler all have dangerous mechanical flaws that have already caused serious arm injuries. So, yeah, Wheeler’s right — if you’re a pitcher, you’ll get hurt too if you “throw the way they throw.”
Further, these mechanical flaws have nothing to do with why they throw as hard as they do — so forget the equally inane theory that a pitcher has to do something dangerous to reach triple digits. Do not listen to the “pseudo-scientists” who claim that there is a risk associated with increasing velocity, and/or subscribe to the archaic football mentality of “no pain, no gain.” People who say things like that also tell pitchers they need to heave baseball 300 feet, throw weighted balls, and/or perform high-impact twisting exercises that would make a gymnast wince.
Unfortunately, there are too many people in baseball who think like Zack Wheeler, and I don’t get it. Why do people subscribe to hopelessness? What if we as human beings decided to give up when diseases like polio, tuberculosis, and cancer took lives? Yes, death is inevitable, but with science we were able to at least stave it off for a few years by finding cures to deadly diseases — and we continue to work toward curing more all the time. Tearing an elbow ligament isn’t even close to death, yet it’s accepted as a “rite of passage” or “something that just is going to happen” by people who should know better.
It’s particularly sad to hear someone like Zack Wheeler express this hopelessness. First off, because he’s a relatively young man, and I’d hope that the younger generation would reject archaic notions from misinformed, stubborn old people. I’d like to believe that pitchers under the age of 30 would have more hope, combined with more fire and energy to fight the status quo (not unlike young college kids looking to change political landscapes).
Additionally, it’s frustrating when a pitcher like Zack Wheeler further supports and substantiates this hopelessness — essentially, pouring gasoline on the fire. Partially because he’s a pitcher that youngsters look up to, but mostly because Wheeler made bad decisions that directly led to his UCL tear. From the moment he became a pro, Wheeler resisted adjustments to his badly flawed mechanics that could have minimized injury. When the Giants gave up on trying to change him, the Mets — who care NOTHING for their pitchers, and treat them like pieces of meat — allowed him to throw any way he wanted, and he went back to dangerous habits in his his motion. Then, when he suffered forearm tightness and other clues that his elbow could be in danger, he kept throwing. Then, when his UCL partially teared, instead of taking that second opportunity to get off the mound, he kept throwing (with the blessing of the Mets, who encouraged him to keep pitching until the ligament tore completely). It was NEVER a surprise that Wheeler wound up on an operating table to have his UCL repaired.
So, yeah, Zack, you’re right — arm injuries ARE inevitable when you insist on moving your body inefficiently, when you ignore warning signs, and when you continue to pitch through pain and injuries. I only have one question, though — is the pet you have at home a brontosaurus or a stegosaurus?