|ChrisOLeary.com > Pitching > Death To The Inverted W: Annotated|
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Inverted W: Annotated
As you may know, I have a huge problem with a pitching cue that is referred to as the "Inverted W" (or the "Upside-Down W", "M", or "Breaking the hands with the elbows"). I believe that pitchers who make the "Inverted W" are at a significantly higher risk of experiencing shoulder — and in some cases also elbow — problems.
In the interests of accuracy in journalism, I have been holding off on publishing this essay because I wasn't sure if pitchers were actually being taught to do this or if they were simply figuring this out on their own (and being praised for it).
However, just the other day I had a "conversation" with a pitching guru named Paul Nyman in one of the forums on Steven Ellis' Lets Talk Pitching web site and he indicated that the "Inverted W" is indeed something something that he advocates (and teaches).
I can point to literally hundreds of players who have benefited significantly using the exact same methods (inverted W, scapula loading, pelvic loading, etc.) that you THINK are a problem or what you THINK causes problems.
It's not that I think pitchers don't BENEFIT from the Inverted W. They often DO. That's why people teach the Inverted W. The problem is that the Inverted W very reliably comes at a COST. A cost that is usually ignored. If not denied. THAT'S the problem I have with the Inverted W; that it's sold as being "benign." As a free lunch; something you can do, and gain from, without (negative) consequence.
Let me explain all of the reasons why I don't like the "Inverted W".
It Is Not What Great Pitchers Do
If you look at the motions of great pitchers (and by great I mean pitchers who had long, successful, and relatively injury-free careers) like...
...you will see that none of
them make the Inverted W.
I didn't get this completely right. As I discuss in my piece on Scap Loading, and learned from Dylan Bundy and a few other pitchers, the Horizonal W can be just as bad as the Inverted W. It's not quite as risky, but it's still quite risky. And it's not what Justin Verlander does.
It Is What Frequently-Injured Pitchers Do
If you look at the mechanics of pitchers who have had injury-plagued careers, then you will almost always see the "Inverted W". Their Pitching Arm Side (aka PAS) elbow is both above and behind their shoulders in what I call a state of Hyperabduction.
You will also see this pattern bear out if you
go back into the history books and look at the careers of guys
like Don Drysdale. He made the Inverted W and ended up retiring
due to shoulder problems.
Similarly, pitchers like Roy Oswalt should not experience nearly as many problems because they do not make the Inverted W.
Eliminating The Inverted W
The Inverted W In Depth
If you look at the arm action of guys like Greg Maddux and Randy Johnson, you will see that their PAS elbow always stays below the level of their shoulders as Randy Johnson's and Greg Maddux's PAS elbows are doing in the photos above. Their PAS elbow never gets above the level of their shoulders after they break their hands.
Viewed from the side as above, the elbows are below the level of the shoulders and the hand, and this forms the shape of a "W" (the green lines in the diagram above).
As you can see in the frame above, you can see the same thing in video clips of Greg Maddux.
You can also see the same thing in still photos of Greg Maddux, as the photo above makes clear.
If you contrast this with the arm action of guys like Mark Prior and Anthony Reyes, you will see that after they break their hands their elbows go above and behind the level of their shoulders.
The "M" or Inverted W
Viewed from the side as above, the
elbows are above the level of the shoulders and the hand,
and this forms the shape of a "M" or Inverted W (the red lines in
the diagram above).
Prior And The Inverted W
Mark Prior Making The Inverted W
Chris I am an orthopedic surgeon, and would like to offer you a theory on why the inverted W is bad to the long term health of the shoulder.
I'm not sure he's exactly right about why the Inverted W is bad, but what he says is interesting enough to make me think I'm on to something.
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