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PT Graduates and Professors Help Mexican Village
Semester break means fun and relaxation for most college students and professors. Two Wheeling Jesuit University alumni and their professors saw it as an opportunity to help others while experiencing what life is like in another culture. This foursome assisted residents with physical therapy needs in the small community of Merida, on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. In the group were Sarah Gehring and Kelly Capdeville, who graduated from WJU with PT degrees in December 2001, and Dr. Letha Zook, associate professor and former PT program director, and Mark Drnach, an assistant professor in the WJU PT program.
PTs Warn: Watch Windmill Windup
“PTs should be and are becoming more involved in pre-season screening of young athletes to prevent season or career-ending injuries,” says Abraham, academic coordinator of clinical education in the WJU Department of Physical Therapy. “Prevention depends primarily on proper pitching mechanics. However, many pitchers are unaware of their faulty mechanics until after an injury has occurred.”
Working with her research partner Jennifer Segner, a recent (2002) graduate of WJU’s physical therapy program and a four-year starting softball pitcher at Muskingum College, New Concord, Ohio, Abraham has carefully analyzed each of the six steps in the windmill pitch.
“An understanding of the general biomechanics of the windmill pitch and its associated injuries can help PTs correct pitching mechanics before injury or make a more complete diagnosis if injury has occurred,” the teacher-student research team reports. “Greater understanding can also lead to more sport-specific rehabilitation, conditioning, and prevention.”
Although Abraham and Segner agree the biomechanically correct underhand windmill motion is a more natural and stable position for the shoulder, “it far from eliminates the potential for injury.” Given the growing popularity of fast pitch softball as a sport, much more research is needed, they conclude.
Just as prevention must depend upon proper pitching technique, rehabilitative treatment for injuries must take into consideration faults in technique, the researchers say. In general, rehabilitation is similar to other rotator cuff or overuse injury with some important differences: sport-specific retraining activities.
“These (activities) need to focus on timing and the proper mechanics of each phase,” says Abraham and Segner. “Break down each of the six specific phases from windup to release and follow through. Once these segmented mechanics are improved, the entire pitching motion can be gradually put back together.”
Treatment also should emphasize shoulder girdle strengthening because “these muscles fire consistently throughout the pitching motion and are at higher risk for trauma,” says the researchers. “Any weakness in these muscles will directly alter the mechanics of the pitch and lead to other articular trauma.” – Condensed from “Windmill Wake-up Call,” Physical Therapy, July/August 2002, pps. 38-42.
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