Yankees’ Jameson Taillon could have injured ankle after mechanical change
Earlier this season, baseball writer Travis Sawchik posted a thread on Twitter about how the Yankees’ Jameson Taillon was one of the many MLB pitchers who had cut their backs.circle of arms”To theoretically protect the arm and improve performance. Sawchik wrote:
“The shorter ‘arm circle’ or ‘elbow spiral’ is gaining popularity (Jameson Taillon and Aaron Civale are among the new adopters) and when you look at successful guys like [Lucas] Giolito, [Trevor] Bauer, [Shane] Bieber & [Zach] Plesac had with a shorter arm action, that makes a lot of sense.
Without going into a long discussion of biomechanics, the short version is that keeping the hand and elbow closer to the body when throwing (more like a quarterback throwing a soccer ball) will both create more weight on the pitch. the torso and will put less stress on the arm. I am of the opinion that while this is technically correct, it is also a simplification that leaves out some very important variables from the discussion. Plus, comparing throwing a soccer ball to throwing a baseball isn’t quite a comparison of apples to apples, to say the least.
The plot thickened somewhat in September when Taillon suffered a partial torn tendon in his right ankle – an injury that would eventually require surgery. Granted, it might just be me for whom the plot thickened because I’m a shameless human movement nerd and focus on such things, but it reminded me of what Taillon himself added at the time to Sawchik’s comment. Taillon posted:
Good product! I would add that a lot of guys who shorten their arm travel focus on lower body movements as well. On the left I’m on my toes / dominant quad. Thus, the arm is left to dry. On the right, my weight is distributed more evenly on the foot and is articulated in the buttocks, that is to say with the help of the legs.
– Jameson Taillon (@ JTaillon50) March 5, 2021
Author’s Note: Taillon was referring to the photos Sawchik posted of Taillon that were taken in two very different parts of the throwing movement, which didn’t really help to shed light on the points that either of the other was doing.
We should stop at this point to be very clear on something: The movement Taillon referred to – articulating at the hips, involving the glutes more – is a very good thing. It creates more power if you participate in a sports competition and it will keep the backs and knees healthy of the non-athletes among us. In general, depending on a few variables, a distribution of body weight that goes down more on the heel and a little less on the toes is a good way to facilitate the hip joint and the involvement of the glutes.
However, “simple” and “easy” are not synonymous, and although simple in theory, the above is not easy to achieve. Keeping the weight on the heel as you squat, lunge, or prepare to head for home plate to throw a baseball at maximum speed requires a fair amount of ankle mobility, as the foot is now more or less anchored to the ground and has restricted movement. If adequate ankle mobility is not present in this case, one of two things tends to happen: Either the body reflexively generates movement elsewhere, creating stress at the secondary location (in this case). case, the knee; the ankle and knee are tied by the same bone – if one end cannot move, the other end will), or the body will force the tissue around the ankle to extend further than ‘he can’t. This, as one might assume, actually puts repetitive stress on the tissue around the ankle.
Now let’s look at two images of Taillon’s motion taken at a very similar point in the throwing motion. Note the position of his hindfoot and ankle in both pictures.
In the second photo, you should be able to see that Taillon’s foot and tibia are almost exactly at a right angle, meaning little to no dorsiflexion is needed. In addition, since it is able to pivot on the sole of the foot, very little lateral movement or rotation is required at the ankle either.
Meanwhile, it’s evident in the first photo that with Taillon’s heel down, his ankle is forced to move sideways (reverse in this case). What is maybe harder to see, but I can assure you that it happened in the second photo is that with the heel down the ankle has to do a dorsiflexion. Unlike the first photo where the foot and shin are at a right angle, the shin should tilt forward as its body descends to decrease the angle where the front of the shin and the top of the foot meet. It doesn’t even take into account the ankle rotation that is required as it moves forward just before the foot releases from the rubber.
Since I have never been accused of being subtle, it’s probably obvious where I’m going. It is not unreasonable for us to ask whether the change in position of Taillon’s foot placed mobility demands on his ankle that his ankle could not meet, and the resulting stress may have contributed to the eventual partial tear of the tendon in September. A key reminder here is that the overwhelming majority of non-contact injuries do not “just happen” and are not random at all. They’re usually the end result of repetitive strain injuries over a long period of time – so the pickups usually don’t even cause pain – but stress builds up on the tissue, eventually leading to injury. (An injury that may seem acute, but is the result of a chronic problem.)
Of course, this does not mean that “is” what happened, but it is a possibility that must be considered in progress. As I have written on these pages before, the number of variables involved in throwing a baseball are countless, so all of the solutions are educated guesses to some extent.
However, it can serve as a reminder: everyone moves differently with different aspects of the movement in which they are better than others, even elite athletes. Some people have more flexible ankles and shoulders than others, while others may have a stiffer torso than others. As a result, there is no “right” or “wrong” way, as the throw and swing are very individualistic. What works for one person may not work for someone else, so trying to insert square pegs into round holes is what to avoid.