Three strikes and a batter’s out in baseball, but poor throwing technique could put a pitcher out for the season.

Shoulder and elbow injuries are common among middle and high school age pitchers, and incorrect mechanics are often to blame. To keep kids from getting hurt, the Institute for Athletic Medicine is going into communities and schools, holding clinics to educate baseball coaches on how to teach proper form.

“Most coaches are previous players, but unless they have backgrounds in body mechanics they often struggle to recognize potential problems with throwing motions,” says Erika Sandell-Savor, DPT, throwing program coordinator.

Common pitching mistakes like dropping the elbow or improper foot placement can cause major damage over time. In fact, nearly 85 percent of players who don’t use proper pitching form will develop a shoulder or elbow injury.

“The clinic was a fantastic way to educate our coaches as to the proper mechanics for pitching and throwing to avoid arm injury, as well as an interactive approach to learning pitching and throwing drills,” says Jason Herzog, Elk River baseball travel director. “Our coaches were very impressed with the way Erika broke down the throwing mechanics step by step, explaining the proper and improper techniques at each step.”

The Institute for Athletic Medicine treats more than 200 throwing athletes each year, and they work to prevent injuries just as much as they work to treat them.

“What we specialize in, as physical therapists, is injury prevention,” says Erika. “There are a lot of things about players’ lives that we can’t control, but we can control their strength, mobility and how they throw.”

IAM’s pitching clinics are a collaboration with the Minnesota Youth Athletic Services and Lovdahl Pitching Academy.

Going out into our communities to help keep kids healthy and strong is one way we’re driving a healthier future.