Hamstrings and Oblique Pulls in Baseball

I am amazed and astounded at the number of hamstring pulls and oblique pulls in baseball. I do not have any first hand knowledge of specific situations, but I am quite aware of the training culture in this sport. I have lived this day to day and seen what can and cannot be and what should and should not be done. It is beyond belief to see players miss months with a hamstring pull. That is appalling and alarming. There is either gross negligence, incompetence or a completely flawed rehab and training methodology. I suspect a combination of the three. Based on my experiences in Track & Field I would expect an athlete to miss three weeks on the outside. Oblique strains are a different story, they take a long time to heal. Those muscles once injured basically never rest because they are involved in breathing and other everyday activities that we are hardly aware of.

Here are some reasons why I think there is the number of hamstring pulls in baseball and my opinions on why the rehab is taking so long:

Players do not sprint enough. They only go all out during the games. They save themselves.

When they do run they only sprint straight ahead, they do not run curves and arcs. The hamstrings are under greatest stress coming out of turn (rounding a base).

Lack of understanding of hamstring function.

Lack of understanding of the mechanism of injury - hamstring pulls are deceleration injuries.

Improper strength training - use of hamstring curls and strengthening exercises that focus on the hamstring in non-functional positions.

Over reliance on machines for “running.” – Elliptical machines that lock you into a limited range, stair steppers that do the same, and high-speed treadmills that foster incorrect running mechanics.

Lack of understanding of correct sprint mechanics, as they are adapted to the sport.

Once they are injured rehab must emphasize getting their feet back on the ground string with walking and extensive work on the non-involved leg. They should be jogging in two days! I know with the Mets there was over reliance on a new therapy pool, the players lost coordination and did get a “feel” for the ground. Therapy pools are OK, but should not be the main focus.

In regard to the oblique strains, here is my two cents worth:

Excessive amounts of non-functional “Ab” work done in seated, prone or supine positions.

Over emphasis on flexion/extension movements, not enough rotation in training.

When medicine ball is done, there is too much emphasis on the throw, not enough on the catch.

Once again a lack of understanding of the mechanism of injury, it is a deceleration injury. It occurs not accelerating the bat or the ball, but in deceleration.

I am not very optimistic that we will see these injuries controlled in the near future. Baseball is a monkey see monkey do sport, way too many fads in training, not enough good training methodology. The front office administrative types rely way too much on Doctors who have no understanding of function or training. Too many egos, not enough teamwork. The result is that there are millions of dollars of players on the sideline.


At 8/30/07, 8:44 AM, Anonymous tlanger said...

Awesome post, Vern.

One question: you mentioned rehab work; in the past you’ve commented you aren't a therapist, but a trainer. I'm NOT trying to be cute and honestly wondering where you draw the line between rehab and performance along the functional path. It would be cool if you could elaborate on your thoughts....


Todd Langer

At 8/30/07, 9:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No argument, comment or debate on hamstring situation with baseball; total in agreement.

As for oblique strain, over the years, I have observed and seen athletes doing and wanting to "feel the burn" with an abdominal workouts, because anything else such rotational/deceleration, they feel will not work the abdominals. Thus some conditioning coaches provide/prescribe non functional "ab" work done in seated, prone/supine position, and over emphasizing the flexion/extension movements. Here is one protocol for pre-season testing, on ham/glute machine, athlete gets into back extension and hold for 3 minutes. This is very functional isn't?

Off the topic, another doo doo theory that some conditioning coaches preaching out there, in order to stand on the stability ball, you must have a strong "core". I know several beer belly guys can stand on a stability ball.


At 8/30/07, 9:38 AM, Anonymous tlanger said...


Good point; however, never under-estimate the power of a beer belly! ;) LOL! Seriously, you are right and standing on a Swiss ball is a circus act that DOES NOT allow for the proprioceptive system to work in a functional manner; for instance, you are not allowed to self-correct postural disturbances or in other words your feedforward system is negated by the limitation of the training apparatus...what's REALLY funny is that the feedforward system encompasses the ever-popular transverses abdominals and thus, all the core crazy folks are doubly wrong in using the Swiss ball in this particular manner!

Todd Langer

At 8/30/07, 11:15 AM, Blogger Joe P. said...

I agree with you Vern, hamstring injuries do seem to take longer to heal on the professional level. My guess is these were probably not the first hamstring injuries they had. Ossification and fascial adhesions from previous shrugged off strains make the next one more likely. Decreased neural drive from the lumbar plexus from disk pathology doesn't help. P.S.-Don't forget that frontal plane with your rehab protocols everybody!

At 8/30/07, 2:37 PM, Anonymous Eduardo Ruiztagle said...

Hi Vern, I just wanted to say that I enjoy reading all your posts and everything you put up is insightful. I was reading the comments on one of your earlier blogs and people were commenting on how you are always doing nice things for people and going out of your way to help them well... Im 15 and my dad really likes your methods and ways of training, he even got me to read Athletic Development. (sorry this comment is so long, hope you havent lost interest and have already stopped reading.) Also, he bought me your DVD Soccer Speed ( which was awesome). Well the reason of this whole comment is to ask you for a favor. My dad has a blog about Functional Training and things like that and I know that If you took a minute to read one of his posts and comment on how you think his blog is it would make him very happy. Since I read that you sometimes go out of your way to help people, I thought that maybe you could go out of your way to read his blog. His blog is:


Eduardo Ruiztagle

At 8/30/07, 3:20 PM, Blogger Austin Sports Performance Trainer said...

I have come read your books and gained a LOT from them (first as a soccer coacha and now as a trianer), particularly your latest book. More importantly the athletes I train have benefited from what I've learned from you (especially every time I've told them that: "there are no shortcuts"). However this is my first visit to your blog and I am really excited. I just wanted to take a moment to let you know how much your teaching has meant to me as a trainer! I hope to get to do some learning with you in person one of these days!!!


Scott Curry
Austin, TX

At 8/30/07, 11:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems these skill coaches talk about muscle memory when it comes to batting, throwing and other skills but I wonder if they realize they are creating muscle memory patterns about the size of a floppy disc by doing exercises such as leg curls. We should be creating muscle memory movement patterns the size of super computers that can learn and adapt on their own.

Joe P. - I am completely onboard with your stated complications - I would just add SI joint problems too. Sometimes it just is not as easy as the outsiders think it should be but probably not as hard as some make it either.

Mark Day

At 9/2/07, 11:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"When they do run they only sprint straight ahead, they do not run curves and arcs. The hamstrings are under greatest stress coming out of turn (rounding a base)."

Vern, Running curves and arches could compromise the ankles of a player already playing his/her sport. Sprint straight ahead while training and leave the lateral movements to the sport itself.

The reason for the injuries you mention could also be because of the lack of good strength base.

How do you build a strength base for novices?

At 9/3/07, 9:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There it is...don't run arcs or curves because it could compromise the ankles!! Leave the lateral movements to the sport itself...hmm. Don't work on lateral quickness because the sport within itself will make the athlete quicker.

I will make sure my athletes don't work with this mentality.



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