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Candelaria's arm ailment, it was discovered, stemmed from two major flaws in his delivery. Nothing unusual, really. Kendall believes that 80% of major league pitchers are guilty of one or more of four basic mechanical mistakes. Candelaria was landing on his right heel instead of on the ball of his foot and thereby was losing what's now commonly called "glove drive," i.e., getting additional forward momentum and focused direction during delivery. His bad landings were causing his body and shoulder to be shocked on every pitch, and the loss of glove drive was weakening his push toward home plate. With his glove at shoulder height or lower, Candelaria was missing an opportunity to generate positive momentum and was forcing his arm and shoulder to pick up the slack.
Other common mistakes, according to Bauer, Seaver and Kendall, include not keeping one's "front" shoulder and hip facing home plate during the push-off and not using the legs and trunk to throw. Both errors dramatically increase arm and shoulder stress.
"It took a while to make the changes," says Candelaria. "I spent a lot of time in front of the mirror. You can't make adjustments like that in the middle of a season." But two years and 27 wins later, he's thankful he did. "I owe it all to Dr. Bauer and Fred," Candelaria says. "Every damn bit of it. I believed in myself, but they're the ones who showed me what to do. Without them I don't think I'd be pitching today."
Candelaria's recovery offered hope for pitchers faced with similar pain but who were ignorant of or afraid to try the anti-surgery option. It also awakened the baseball establishment to the advantages of antisurgery treatment. "Before, all management had to do was replace one $30,000 pitcher with another," says Jobe. "Now, with guys making $700,000 a year, the emphasis has shifted to saving these people."
No one has made a bigger about-face in his thinking than Jobe. Between 1967 and '82 he performed more than 100 rotator cuff operations, but he's now opposed to the operation in certain instances. His shift stems from three years of research begun in 1980 under a $1 million grant from L.A.'s Centinela Hospital to Jobe's Biomechanics Lab in Ingle-wood, Calif. In one of his studies, hair-thin wires were inserted into the arms of five male test subjects. Muscle firings were recorded during various stages of windup and delivery. The test results, published in the January 1983 American Journal of Sports Medicine, startled many doctors. The two major findings: a surprising lack of muscle activity during the arm's acceleration phase, when it can reach 700 mph; and a tremendous burst of activity during the arm's deceleration phase, when the shoulder is slowing the arm's motion. "I found that deceleration data kind of surprising myself," Jobe admits.
During the course of his study Jobe also discovered healthy rotator cuff muscles weaken after 10 days of inactivity, setting off a chain reaction he believes responsible for most, if not all, arm and shoulder ailments. "It means as early as the third inning of pitching you will have trouble keeping your shoulder up," says Jobe. "And because the shoulder is weak from inactivity, you can feel pain. You then lower that shoulder to ease that pain. That lowers your arm, which, in turn, puts abnormal stress on the elbow."
It seems so simple. A weak shoulder plus pain equals an altered motion and more pain. Jobe's solution was just as simple: Strengthen the shoulder through a series of eight basic dumbbell exercises so it can stay elevated and withstand the stress of the sudden starting and stopping. "The Dodgers have been doing a variation of these exercises for about three years now," says Jobe, who also is L.A.'s team doctor, "and we haven't had any shoulder problems in that time."
Still, as elementary as this new philosophy sounds, changing old habits isn't easy. Adding preventive exercises to the regular training regimen sometimes annoys pitchers who feel fine. And many major league pitchers shudder at the thought of changing their mechanics. Most have pitched the same way since Little League, and they fear that any adjustment in their motion will have disastrous consequences. That fear seems to be more common among older, more established pitchers whose mechanics are firmly entrenched. "It would be so much better," Kendall says, "if pitchers could change while they're pain-free. Why not change now and avoid trouble later?"
Good question. One answer may be that baseball has never instituted a broad-based education program. Before Jobe's study, little scientific data were available on what happens to the arm during delivery. Without such data, few physicians or clubs were willing to prescribe weight training (which was long a baseball taboo), isometric exercise or even acupuncture as possible cures. But even as Jobe's findings make their way around the league and new rotator cuff-strengthening machines, such as the one developed by Atlanta Braves trainer Dave Pursley, hit the market, baseball drags its feet. Few franchises have made a strong commitment to solving the injury problem.
"Face it," says Jobe, "baseball is a very traditional game. It's hard for a doctor to tell a major league pitching coach he thinks Pete Vuckovich can pitch longer if he modifies his mechanics a bit—especially as Pete is picking up his Cy Young Award."