Tag Archives: wrist

Striking Out the Myths behind the Curveball

Anybody who has played baseball growing up was probably told “Don’t start throwing a curveball until you are ‘X’ years old.” That “X” in there for the age was normally around fifteen or sixteen years old depending on who you asked. When an eager, young ball player responded with “Why,” it was normally answered by “Because you will hurt your elbow and shoulder.” No sixth or seventh grade kid is really going to question that statement beyond asking another adult, and subsequently getting the same answer. Likewise, no youth baseball coach has really put in the effort to research whether or not learning to throw a curveball is detrimental health of young athletes.

A study was recently conducted by professionals at Elite Sports Medicine at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center to find out the answer. The study was aimed to analyze the shoulder and elbow joints of several teenage pitchers as they threw multiple fastballs and curveballs. They were specifically looking at the moments put on the elbow and shoulder and comparing those between pitches. A moment is a measure of a force on an object and the distance away from the object the force is being applied, mostly resulting in rotation. A moment can also be thought of as torque.

This image shows the grip and wrist position for a curveball
From McGraw, How to Play Baseball, a Manual for Boys

After warming up, the athletes selected for the study had reflective markers placed on their body. These markers assisted in gathering information for “3-Dimensional motion analysis”. This analysis allows the researchers to record “kinematic and kinetic data for the upper extremities, lower extremities, thorax, and pelvis” for both the fastball and the curveball. The researchers found that the moments in the shoulder and in the elbow are lower when throwing a curveball compared to a fastball. This means that the rotational force put on the joints is actually less severe in a curveball than a fastball. The only thing found that is more intense in a curveball than a fastball is the force on the wrist ulnar, which is used when making the motion trying to touch the wrist to the pinky finger. The wrist and forearm motion and forces were the only significant differences between the two pitches.

From this data it is easy to see that the reason for not learning curveballs at a young age has nothing to do with shoulder and elbow injury. There may be a reason related to wrist injury, but that is yet to be explored. A fastball is actually harder on the joints than a curveball. For whatever reason, youth coaches have always preached not to throw curveballs until you absolutely need to. They may have their reasons, but science has shown that it is not realistic to blame injuries.

For further reading on this topic, please see these articles from Driveline Baseball, The New York Times, and Sports Illustrated.

Do Wrist Guards Prevent Snowboarding Injuries?

Snowboarder grabbing board while in the air after going off a jump.
Photo from Markos Mant on Unsplash

Snowboarding is a breathtaking sport yet carries with it an inherent risk of injury. Wrist protectors provide potential protection against snowboarding wrist injuries. However, some studies have argued that wrist protection transfers the injury to other parts of the forearm.

A 2001 joint study by the Lillehammer Central Hospital (Now part of Innlandet Hospital Trust) and University of Oslo Department of Orthopedic Surgery explored the efficacy of wrist protectors in preventing snowboarding injuries.

Studies like this are very important in growing winter sports, as more athletes will pick up snowboarding or alpine skiing if the risk of serious injury can be further decreased.

A total of 5029 snowboarders were included in the study, with 2515 snowboarders wearing a brace and 2514 snowboarders not wearing a brace. The brace used was a D-ring wrist brace. A physician examined the participants at the end of each day snowboarding and was not aware if the subject had worn a wrist protector or not. The physician defined a wrist injury as an evident fracture, sprain, or pain in the wrist that lasted for at least 3 days.

Front and Side view of a participant wearing a D-ring wrist brace.
Front (A) and side (B) views of D-ring Wrist Protector. Modified from Rønning, Rønning, Gerner, and Engebretsen, The American Journal of Sports Medicine 2001

A limitation of this study comes with setting an endpoint for what qualifies as a wrist injury. Both fractures and sprains qualify as wrist injuries. Wrist pain must be accompanied by decreased range of motion for 3 days to qualify as a meaningful wrist injury.

The study results showed that the braced group experienced 8 wrist injuries, while the control group recorded 29 wrist injuries. This is a statistically significant difference in the number of wrist injuries experienced by each group.

Of the subgroups explored in this study, beginner snowboarders with less than 5 days of snowboarding experience were found to have significantly more wrist injuries than the snowboarders with more than 5 or more days of experience.

A snowboard constrains both legs and feet in strapped bindings. When a snowboarder begins to lose their balance, a snowboarder will commonly extend their arms to brace the fall. When the wrist is flexed upwards during a fall, the wrist absorbs the energy of the fall and causes a fracture or sprain.

An effective wrist protector absorbs as much energy as possible without providing additional stress areas to the forearm. A wrist protector that is designed with too much rigidity will generate a high stress force above or below the wrist. The study confirms the benefits of wearing a protective wrist guard while snowboarding, and the physician found no injuries in the arm due to the use of a brace.

However, most wrist guards still available are uncomfortable to wear with winter gloves, so the study recommended future gloves be designed with built-in wrist guards. By improving the safety of alpine sports, snowboarders will feel comfortable pushing the boundaries of the sport and attempting more unforgettable tricks!

For more on injury prevention in snowboarding, check out this article by the Daily Herald or click here.