Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Should Throwers have a "Pitch Count"?


It seems like every single one of us, when we start this game and started to take it seriously, was instructed the very same advice by wiser/better players:

"If you want to improve your throws, go outside of practice and throw."

I also heard the following
  • If you want to get better at throwing, you have to throw as much as you can
  • You should emulate players before you who (allegedly) threw thousands of discs a week to improve
Hard to argue at the macro level. Practice and you will greatly increase your chances of getting better. Here comes the but...


I have the following issues with that advice that is given to so many players
  1. Practice doesn't necessarily make perfect, but it surely makes permanent. I see a lot of players learn less than optimal techniques for throwing, and then ingrain them into their throws. Players might be able to throw a lot less if they do it right.
  2. Face it, we're evolving as a sport. It's not just about throwing anymore, one has to improve their overall fitness in order to throw further and more accurately.
  3. Now that we have so many young players who start well before the age of maturity, I worry that the mechanics of throwing big throws in ultimate (the pulls, the flick bombs, and the huck)
The idea about youth and their throwing patterns comes to me as a result of another sport I am passionate about- baseball. I feel very alone cheering and watching baseball these days, but I always enjoy "experts" talking about managing young pitchers. We're talking about the young arms of the Oakland A's in the early 1980's. the Texas Rangers of the mid 80's the Chicago Cubs of this decade (See token Kerry Wood and Mark Prior picture) and the list goes on.

Do you know who Mike Norris, Edwin Correa, and Jeff D'Amico? Probably not. Mismanagement by coaches and managers cut short very promising baseball careers.

Baseball is very slow to change, but after witnessing the destruction of many young and talented arms before their respective times, baseball teams are realizing that they can't stay ignorant anymore- these young pitching stars are too valuable and costly.

I'm not saying that throwing a disc is nearly as tough on the body as throwing a baseball. However, with the amount of former players in the 30's who complain of shoulder and back problems, I wonder if our arms and bodies have only so many throws in them, and what we can do to increase our throwing lifespan. (core training, fitness, proper technique, etc). I also worry that if guys who started in their 20's are hurt in their 30's what kind of injuries can we expect from players who will have over ten year's experience by the time they reach university?

Do you think players (especially youth players) should have a "Throw Count" during practices and outside of games?


T1000 said...

Pitch count policies were adopted only after evidence accumulated that pitching is severely strenuous. Moreover, pitching is a specialized skill restricted to only a few players. It is not to be confused with merely throwing (which all players practice without limit).

Until I see more concrete evidence that throwing a disc is comparable to pitching, I am inclined to compare it to throwing a baseball or kicking a soccer ball: tiresome, but not worth counting.

jhaig said...

"You should emulate players before you who (allegedly) threw thousands of discs a week to improve"

I would say that theories like this one are responsible for the large number of players in Ottawa who have throws that look kinda like Derek's in terms of body positioning and release point but rarely go anywhere near a receiver.

I'd almost swear that certain players learned to throw watching themselves in front of a mirror instead of watching where the disc goes.

Sport Management Steven said...


I concede that pitching is a specialized skill for few players. Much like hucking. Practicing or doing both can be hard on the body and will take it's toll over time. There is a reason kids are not allowed to throw certain pitches until a certain age

Absolutely no disagreement. Showmanship is overrated without results.

I think that although this idea is not proven, it is definitely something that should be looked at as our first generation/group of players comes through that has played since a very young age.

Jon Rayner said...

It would be interesting to put some pitchers and frisbee throwers in a side-by-side study of muscle and joint stress when using different throwing techniques.

On the topic of protecting youth from injuries, I can think of 3 other topics that warrant close attention: proper footwork, concussions, and layout technique.

Proper footwork. Learning to cut, decelerate, jump and land to avoid joint injuries to the ankle and knee.

Concussions. Definitely something to count.

Layouts. Learning good technique to minimize the risk of injury to shoulders, elbows, knees, back, neck, head, collar bones, etc. Also being aware of the risk involved when positioning and circumstances require a player to bid awkwardly. Should youth players be coached to back off a bid when the circumstances don't allow for good technique?

There are plenty of young Ottawa Open players now leaving their feet every time there's a good chance they can get a D. What's the cumulative damage going to be... on top of the direct cause-and-effect injuries (like Paul Cobb @ No Borders this year)?

The problem with layouts is that they can be addictive once you get your technique and timing squared away. How many layouts do I have left before my body says enough? Should I have a "Layout Count"? Or a "Total Pts. Played Count"?

But age is gonna get ya no matter what. You hit your mid-thirties and keep going full tilt? Most of us are going to break at some point... no matter how healthy and careful you've been up until that time.

Not sure if you've referenced this site yet Steve (sorry if you have already), but Injury Timeout is devoted specifically to the ultimate community... some really good stuff there, including other ultimate injury classics like shin splints, plantar fasciitis, and rotator cuff injuries.

Jon Rayner said...

Oops... that link to Injury Timeout was missing some formatting. I'll try again:

Injury Timeout


jhaig said...

Similar to what you were getting at, although they talk about limiting the number of games played rather then the number of discs thrown.