The term “elevated distal humerus” was coined (I believe) by Ron Wolforth of the Texas Baseball Ranch, and is a common disconnect of many pitchers. The term is used to explain how the elbow gets higher than the shoulder, as you can see with this image of Mark Prior.
Why is this bad? There are quite a few issues that could arise, but any time you elevate the humerus above 90 degrees you lose stabilization in the glenohumeral joint, but you may also have other issues. If you’ve ever done behind the head/neck lat pulldowns you’ve probably felt discomfort, or even pain, while out of the packed position of the glenohumeral joint. This is due to the movement being performed, which can cause the humerus, ligaments (inferior glenohumeral ligament), labrum, and even the rotator cuff to become stressed while in this position.
Here are a few solid points that Ron Wolforth brings up on Elevated Distal Humerus:
- Places humerus at a less sound, less advantageous orientation
- It adds distance and time required to get to ideal launch (position when the ball is released)
- Adds stress to anterior shoulder and/or medial elbow
In the end, I believe that this ‘position’ of the humerus is simply a bad position for any long-term, repetitive movements. Pitching puts a lot of stress and strain on the shoulder complex as it is, but in this position you are, potentially, a butterfly tap away from serious trauma of the glenohumeral joint. Nearly every muscle of the shoulder complex is working overtime to hold the joint in place, which forces the forearm to work harder during the throwing motion as well. Since the flexor-pronator mass dynamically stabilizes the elbow against valgus torque, we don’t want the forearm to work overtime.
I also believe that ‘EDH’ could play a major role in ‘flying open’ and ‘arm drag‘ as well.
How to Fix Elevated Distal Humerus
I’m actually a firm believer that the Oates’ Connection Ball is a great way to correct this ‘flaw’. I believe that it gives the user a good feel (proprioception) of where the elbow should be at during specific movements.
Ron Wolforth (sorry, I don’t mean to keep bringing his name up…) is where I discovered this connection ball, as well as drills they use at TBR.
I think this video by Kyle Boddy of DrivelineBaseball is a pretty good example of how you should use a connection ball to fix this disconnect. Using the ball UNDER the throwing arm is what’s recommended here. The ball should drop as you move into thoracic extension and ‘scapular loading‘ (when the chest peels back during the delivery).
You can purchase the Connection Ball by clicking on the image above.
Of course, you don’t necessarily NEED this ball. You could probably find another light, 12″ pilates ball from Amazon. They’re basically the same thing, but since OatesSpecialties has other cool Baseball products, I’d recommend them as you can get the Connection ball through them for a bit cheaper than the pilates ball through Amazon.
If you decide to skip the ball altogether, just be warned that it will definitely take more time and patience. I’ve been there. I feel that this ball works wonders for most kids.