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Statistical study on UCL tears

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#1 ashbury

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Posted 30 June 2019 - 01:49 PM

[I started a tangent in a thread about Twins prospect Kai-Wei Teng, and decided to split off the discussion to a non-Twins thread instead. ]

 

 

I saw an intriguing study this week that showed UCL injury correlates more to Body Mass Index than to pitch velocity or age or number of pitches thrown. The study did not suggest anything more than correlation, nor what to do about it. Worrisome, in any case.

 

https://community.fa...-and-ucl-tears/

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#2 biggentleben

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Posted 30 June 2019 - 01:55 PM

 

6'4" and 260? I saw an intriguing study this week that showed UCL injury correlates more to Body Mass Index than to pitch velocity or age or number of pitches thrown. The study did not suggest anything more than correlation, nor what to do about it. Worrisome, in any case.

 

I'd be intrigued to see more evidence on that. It'd seem that you'd see more correlation on the ends of BMI (which is a horrific number anyway as 6'2" and 210 pounds can be healthy on one guy and unhealthy on the next) from experiential inference, but I'm not sure.

 

I did mention in the piece that he really doesn't carry the weight in a bad way. He has a prominent backside, but in the same way that Vlad Guerrero, Jr. has one. He's also impressive bouncing off the mound to field pitches, which leads to believe that he's in fairly good physical condition.

 

I'd think with him, the bigger worry would be the arm slot than his overall body size as far as potential future arm issues.

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#3 ashbury

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Posted 30 June 2019 - 02:11 PM

A statistical result like that is usually only the beginning. It points toward interesting questions revolving around "why".

 

Whether or not BMI is a flawed metric for being "unhealthy", it's a concrete metric for an aspect of "size". The correlation the study found was strong, but that just opens the door for specifying a better metric for the various factors that go into "size" and how they could be a cause for this-or-that outcome.

 

Re-doing the study for shoulder injuries (DL/IL time, etc) might also be illuminating. If UCL correlates in a way rotator cuffs don't, wouldn't that be interesting? Chris Sale and Alex Meyer have shoulder troubles, Micheal Pineda has UCL ... one can go back and forth with anecdotal evidence, which is why the structure of a statistical analysis should be better.

 

I'd be surprised if teams weren't already on top of this, but it was interesting to see it come from someone so far outside the mainstream. Part of the point is that the data is out there, so that even a bright high-schooler with good mentoring can tackle it. So, why* haven't I? :)

 

Anyway, this prospect fits a profile that used to be considered a better risk because of a sturdy build, and perhaps that opinion will abruptly shift. For all I know, the Twins were able to sign him in 2017 because other teams were already 2 years ahead of them in this bit of analytical insight (assuming it is solid).

 

 

* Skillz

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#4 biggentleben

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Posted 30 June 2019 - 02:18 PM

 

A statistical result like that is usually only the beginning. It points toward interesting questions revolving around "why".

 

Whether or not BMI is a flawed metric for being "unhealthy", it's a concrete metric for an aspect of "size". The correlation the study found was strong, but that just opens the door for specifying a better metric for the various factors that go into "size" and how they could be a cause for this-or-that outcome.

 

I'd be surprised if teams weren't already on top of this, but it was interesting to see it come from someone so far outside the mainstream.

 

True, and frankly, the correlations being as strong as they were with other factors engaged is notable as well. Like you said, I'd be surprised if someone isn't already on this research on big league clubs and likely working on more in-depth breakdowns on size vs. health measures and UCL injury correlation.

 

I know from researching a piece on Thoracic Outlet Syndrome that teams were finding that bigger guys had a statistically significant increased rate of TOS. It'd be interesting to know if there was a reason behind the size correlation for both injuries or if one was more directly causational and the other more corretional. (making up words, but it works)

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#5 cmoss84

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Posted 02 July 2019 - 10:09 AM

very interesting-thanks for sharing this!

 

Am I missing something here or is the entire league overweight? When looking to see what a 
"normal BMI" is for adult males, it says anything over 25 is "overweight" and anything over 30 is "obese."

 

Professional athletes are generally in great shape, so if someone can let me know where I am off, it would be much appreciated!

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#6 biggentleben

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Posted 02 July 2019 - 11:35 AM

 

very interesting-thanks for sharing this!

 

Am I missing something here or is the entire league overweight? When looking to see what a 
"normal BMI" is for adult males, it says anything over 25 is "overweight" and anything over 30 is "obese."

 

Professional athletes are generally in great shape, so if someone can let me know where I am off, it would be much appreciated!

 

That's a bit of the rub in all of this. Kids signed today from Latin America may be 6'3" and 160 now, but they'll be 6'3" and 185 by the time they make the upper minors, and could "tip the scales" at 205 with major league strength coaching, but they would be considered overweight at that point.

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#7 ashbury

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Posted 02 July 2019 - 11:46 AM

Just to be clear, I don't think the study got into value judgements of "overweight" or not. That's a medical decision to make, and BMI no doubt is one of several factors going into that.

 

If the league as a whole skews to high BMI, that probably only highlights that BMI alone is not a strong indicator of health or fitness. Muscle weighs more than fat, yadda yadda yadda.

 

This study used BMI as one of several metrics, and it happened to be one that turned out to have a positive correlation to the particular injury.

 

But, if (say) having tree-trunk thighs is somehow causing a throwing mechanical issue that manifests in the elbow, it's worth knowing, value judgements aside. Everybody knows that pitching is greatly about the legs, but perhaps there is the risk of having too much of a good thing. (That's not a conclusion the study drew, I'm just throwing it out there as the kind of thing that I imagine teams will look at.)

 

Come to think of it, a certain third-baseman of our acquaintance has muscular thighs, and he managed to blow out his elbow a few seasons ago. Just sayin'. (OTOH Alex Kirilloff had elbow surgery, and his build is more normal.)

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#8 Sconnie

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Posted 02 July 2019 - 12:54 PM

 

very interesting-thanks for sharing this!

 

Am I missing something here or is the entire league overweight? When looking to see what a 
"normal BMI" is for adult males, it says anything over 25 is "overweight" and anything over 30 is "obese."

 

Professional athletes are generally in great shape, so if someone can let me know where I am off, it would be much appreciated!

The study isn't about how healthy the players are, but how having more mass correlates to injury.

 

A person can strengthen muscles using exercises. Is it possible strengthen ligaments, or does Miguel Sano have the same ligaments I do? If so, would my ligaments continue to hold up if I put them through the same rigor? 

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#9 nicksaviking

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Posted 02 July 2019 - 02:05 PM

Interesting. Maybe this study itself actually helps disprove the BMI-as-a-healthy-measurement argument. As alluded to, plenty of people won't pass BMI muster because they're too muscular, and if being too muscular leads to increased velocity/torque, sure, the UCL stuff makes sense.

 

I unfortunately don't pass BMI muster for other reasons.

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#10 jkcarew

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Posted 02 July 2019 - 02:57 PM

 

...if being too muscular leads to increased velocity/torque, sure, the UCL stuff makes sense.

Exactly. Optimizing the human skeleton for sports performance is sure to sub-optimize it for injury prevention. I don't think that's likely to change. In this instance, the extra torque that comes from muscle and a big bottom-half is desirable (even necessary)...right up until the tendon is damaged. I think additional information can mitigate up to a point, but professional athletes are not going to be getting smaller any time soon.

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#11 Jham

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Posted 07 July 2019 - 06:42 AM

My hypothesis is that the added muscle mass puts additional strain on ligaments, joints, and bones. Pro athletes bulk up for the power and explosion. At the same time, it's pretty well accepted that as you build muscle mass you start to lose flexibility and ROM. Muscles firing more suddenly with more force plus less flexibility probably means more injuries. In the case of slingshotting a baseball over your shoulder at 95+ mph, the weak link is almost always the ucl at the elbow.
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#12 biggentleben

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Posted 07 July 2019 - 09:21 AM

 

My hypothesis is that the added muscle mass puts additional strain on ligaments, joints, and bones. Pro athletes bulk up for the power and explosion. At the same time, it's pretty well accepted that as you build muscle mass you start to lose flexibility and ROM. Muscles firing more suddenly with more force plus less flexibility probably means more injuries. In the case of slingshotting a baseball over your shoulder at 95+ mph, the weak link is almost always the ucl at the elbow.

 

The issue with that being that the primary thing most velocity programs work with is flexibility of the whole body, but specifically of joints in the kinetic line for throwing. Pitchers who have been through those programs (and still use their methods) thus far have had a reduced rate of TJS from general population, but not by an amount that would get teams really investing heavily in said programs in-house.

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