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Refining the Pitch

MLB Teams With BIDMC Researchers To Decrease Injuries


By Jerry Berger
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Staff

Dr. Arun Ramappa, Chief of  Sports Medicine and Shoulder Surgery at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Ara Nazarian, a researcher in orthopedic biomechanics, are making a pitch to cut down on  arm injuries with the help of a grant from Major League Baseball.

The two-year, $100,000 grant enabled them to build a model - from cadaveric arms and wing bones - to test the stress on a pitcher's arm as they go through the motions and to better identify techniques for treating patients with throwing injuries.

"The insights we will find in this study will hopefully give us better ways of handling problems that you and I may have," says Dr. Ramappa, who serves as the Co-Director of Medical Research for the Red Sox.

The study, entitled "The Effect of Humeral and Scapular Positioning on Superior Labral Strain in Simulated Throwing," revolves around a novel testing apparatus that was designed, implemented and validated to simulate all of the motions of a professional pitcher in order to test their hypothesis.

"We think that scapula and positions play an important role," Nazarian says. "Modifying the position of the humerus (the long bone in the upper arm) and scapula (shoulder blade) may cut down on injuries."

Evaluating changes in the shoulder as it goes through the throwing cycle will reveal how the injuries are produced, leading to new surgical and rehabilitation treatments, says Dr. Ramappa. Their goal is to increase the life of a pitcher's arm by using the scapula to take the strain off of the labrum, a cuff of cartilage in the shoulder socket. These findings could be applied to treat a professional pitcher or non-MLB shoulder injuries.

The team is honing in on the superior labrum and the biceps. Dr. Ramappa says the labrum circles the shoulder socket similar to the way a tire wraps around its rim. A labral tear is analogous to a tire coming off the rim.

"The position that spends the most games on the disabled list is the pitcher and the injuries that cause more games on the disabled list are  shoulder and  elbow injuries," Dr. Ramappa says. "In Major League Baseball, these injuries add up to millions of dollars a year in missed time. It would be very useful to get some insight on this subject."

The design and validation of the mechanical throwing model is complete and initial testing has just gone underway. Nazarian and Dr. Ramappa will be joined by a team including Drs. Joseph DeAngelis, Claudio Rosso, Vahid Entezari and undergraduate biomedical engineering students Lake Trechsel, Stacey Staton, William Dow and Daniel Li in conducting this research.

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.

Posted March 2011

Contact Information

Sports Medicine & Shoulder Surgery
Carl J. Shapiro Department of Orthopaedics
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Carl J. Shapiro Clinical Center, 2nd Floor
330 Brookline Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
617-66-SPORT (667-7678)

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