In 1937, Jay Hanna “Dizzy” Dean was the starting pitcher for the National League in the All-Star Game. Dizzy enjoyed a very successful career, part of which he spent with our very own Chicago Cubs. This hall of fame baseball player was also the last National League pitcher to win a whopping 30 games in a single season.
“Fractured?! The damn thing’s broken!”
Between ages 23 and 27, Dizzy was regarded as possibly the best pitcher in baseball. By age 28, he was thought of as just another pitcher. He eventually succumbed to shoulder injury in his throwing arm that effectively ended his career. How did such a prolific pitcher have such a quick fall from greatness? The reason can be traced back to that 1937 All-Star game. In that game, “Ol’ Diz” took a line drive back to the mound right off the big toe on his left foot. The staff went out to take a look and told Dizzy that his toe was fractured. His reply: “Fractured?! The damn thing’s broken!”
In an effort to avoid landing so hard on his fractured toe, Dean attempted to change his throwing mechanics. This subtle change in mechanics caused him to lose proper positioning of his shoulder during his throwing motion and quickly damaged his shoulder, thus ending his career as a pitcher.
What does this injury to Dizzy Dean teach us? That the toe is somehow intricately linked to the shoulder? Not exactly. It shows us the importance of the kinetic chain. When we exercise, run, catch, throw, or move at all, a series of events take place in an orchestrated fashion. When Dizzy tried changing the way his foot struck the ground, he created chaos in a system that had been finely tuned to work a certain way. It changed the vector of force through his lower body, which causes little leaks of energy along the way. It changed the amount of rotation available at his hips. It changed the alignment of his torso as it relates to both his lower body and his shoulder. And it ultimately changed the angle at which his arm traveled as he threw the baseball. It’s amazing how a small change in something on the opposite end of your body can have repercussions on the entire kinetic chain.
When one part of our body is not working properly due to pain, lack of range of motion, tight muscles, lack of core strength, etc., it is always going to cause compensation in another area of the body. Our bodies do not work in terms of single muscles. We function in terms of movement patterns. So if you don’t have the proper motion or joint mechanics somewhere in the body, your body will find away around it and call on another joint or tissue to bear the extra load. Over time this inefficient pattern will break down joints leading to degeneration and overuse injuries we see here in the office every day.
So learn something from Ol’ Dizzy Dean and get evaluated for kinks in your kinetic chain. Odds are if you’re dealing with sore joints and tight muscles, you’ve got some dysfunctional joint mechanics that are causing compensations throughout the body.
Dr. Jeffrey Jones D.C., C.S.C.S.