Yu Darvish, considered one of the best pitchers in baseball, is on the 10-day DL for back tightness. Yu, a proponent of a 6th man rotation, understandably believes giving pitchers more rest will solve the common “overuse” injuries associated with baseball. Yu has a long history of multiple injuries (that we know of). Obviously his performance is being minimally effected by what’s going on, but his mound appearances are taking a hit each year. And now he is needed more than ever on a historic run by the Dodgers towards their inevitable World Series Championship in 2017 (unless we choke). Here are some of the injuries he has had over the years since his Major League debut in 2012:
Back – 2017
Strain Neck Shoulder – 2016
Tommy John – 2015
Strained Trapezius – 2013
Discomfort in Shoulder and Sore Back, hip pains – 2009
Watching multiple videos of Yu Darvish warming up, squatting, tossing the ball, stretching, and just walking, I was able to pick up a few things:
- Right hip weakness with right pelvic shift and left pelvis drop (lumbopelvis instability) which looks like it has increased the demand on the left back muscles (paraspinals) causing a constant source of strain. If you watch many of his videos, he “sits” in his right hip, depending on passive structures such as ligaments to support his weight bearing on the right. On other videos, you can see Yu favor his left or go with a wide stance to again depend on passive structures versus activiely using his hip muscles to stabilize his pelvis and spine.
- Which leads into limited left rotation and right sidebending in the spine due to back tightness on the left. Since he is a righty pitcher, it is crucial to have left rotation. So how does he get away with it? With excessive left hip mobility on the left. But on the days his mechanics are not stellar, he might leave his comfort zone in the left hip and strain his back which is a likely cause he is currently on the DL.
- Limited hip extension really on both legs. Watching him stretch his flexors, it is glaringly obvious that he is lacking quite a bit. It looks like he has decreased right hip mobility in general which shows when he is squatting.
- Limited thoracic mobility which pitchers need and quite frequently lack. Watching videos of him perform shoulder mobility drills (in which you need sufficient thoracic mobility), you can detect excessive head protraction as a compensatory effort to clear the shoulders (think trying to do an overhead squat and needing to pull your head forward to clear the bar up).
So what’s the take home message? 6-man pitching rotation? Lower the pitch count even further? I think most pitchers might look inside themselves and address internal dysfunctions and prolong their careers instead of looking to external factors that delay the inevitable.
At the end of the day: Don’t expect Yu Darvish to have a full and complete season for the rest of his career. He seems like he compensates well and as long as he doesn’t pitch when his mechanics are way off (mechanics get thrown off when in pain and with excessive fatigue), he should be able to avoid sitting out a whole season like he did in 2015.
The Injury Analyst is a blog dedicated to not only explaining injuries that have occurred, but predicting and highlighting future injury risks for professional athletes. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: I have not seen the subject of this article personally in clinic, rather all views and opinions of the author have been made based off of video footage of the athlete. This article is not meant as a diagnosis or a treatment plan.