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Matt Harvey To Undergo Surgery For Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

By Steve Adams | July 8, 2016 at 11:18am CDT

Matt Harvey has elected to undergo surgery to alleviate thoracic outlet syndrome in his right shoulder, agent Scott Boras tells ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin. The operation will end Harvey’s 2016 season.

Harvey was placed on the disabled list earlier this week, and it was reported soon after that he was to be evaluated for thoracic outlet syndrome — a compression of nerves and blood vessels in the shoulder area that is often alleviated by the removal of a rib in the patient. Twins right-hander Phil Hughes underwent the same procedure earlier this week, and other recent examples of players to undergo the procedure include Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia and Chris Young.

The injury has undoubtedly contributed to Harvey’s down season. The 26-year-old has posted a 4.86 ERA with diminished strikeout (7.4 K/9), walk (2.4 BB/9) and ground-ball (40.8 percent) rates while also seeing a 1.5 mph dip in his fastball velocity. Harvey has reportedly been experiencing numbness in his hand while pitching and, via Newsday’s Marc Carig (on Twitter), told manager Terry Collins following his most recent start (in Collins’ words): "My shoulder’s dead. My arm’s dead. There’s no energy there. I couldn’t feel the ball."

 

There are many different causes of TOS

Including physical trauma, anatomical defects and pregnancy. However, one of the more common causes, as is probably the case here, is repetitive injuries, sports or job-related. It is considered a repetitive stress injury (RSI) and is very common in athletes who frequently move in a motion that raises their arm(s) above their head. As you can tell from this description, pitchers sound like primary targets to be victimized by this injury. In fact, Matt Harvey is not the first pitcher to be diagnosed with this.

Any type of injury or should I say for physical impairment has the potential to significantly change athletic performance. This is especially true for movement patterns requiring speed, power and high levels of coordination such as throwing a baseball. From the perspective of these blog posts Harvey’s medical condition, Thoracic Syndrome, is not the cause of his throwing issues i.e. he’s doing something different with how he uses his body to throw the baseball. Obviously a type of physical injury or discomfort has the potential to change how the body throws the baseball. But when all said and done how hard and where the baseball goes is simply a function of the physics and biomechanics. How the physics and biomechanics gets applied to the baseball is a function of the mental and physical state of the person throwing the baseball.

Prior to Harvey’s Thoracic Syndrome diagnosis there was great speculation as to the cause of Harvey’s throwing problems. Number 1.was an injury of some type yet Harvey had maintained that he was feeling fine. Number 2 was a mechanical change in his throwing mechanics. Harvey’s Thoracic Syndrome diagnosis has basically "calm the waters". Harvey’s Thoracic Syndrome and the operation to alleviate it is a good explanation as to why Harvey had problems and hopefully he will be back to the Harvey of "old".

The throwing hierarchy sequence

Mental (Intent the big picture which are trying to do) —–> Nervous System (creation of electrical signals to control the muscles) —–> Physiology (physical preparedness and condition of the neuromuscular system) ——> Biomechanics (external movement patterns of the body) ——> Physics (momentum transfer and forces applied to the baseball).

The only aspect of throwing of the baseball that that is immune from any changes is the physics of the throwing process. As stated in a previous post the fundamental law that determines all baseball movement is simply F=MA.

Any change in Harvey’s mental or physical condition will have it significant effect on his ability to throw the baseball. And this is what confuses much of what is written regarding how to effectively throw the baseball. That what we are interested in is not Harvey’s Thoracic Syndrome causing him to have throwing issues but rather how his Thoracic Syndrome changed how he used his body to throw the baseball i.e. specifically about mechanics and physics of throwing.

A different way to view the throwing process

Complex chaotic systems.

A year doesn’t go by without some new pitching mechanics or pitching instruction discovery. Yet in reality pitching instruction in what is called pitching mechanics has been stuck in a rut since Bob Shaw introduced the world to the concept of pitching mechanics and it’s instruction. The rut consists of a mixture of pitching instruction folklore combined with contemporary science creating a mix that can best be described as pitching mechanics pseudoscience.

I began my attempt to understand how the body throws the baseball the same way I believe most due by attempting to do research and read everything I could on what had been previously published. And early on attempted to use my technical training to reconcile existing pitching mechanics theory and philosophy.

Information was divided into categories, pitching instruction based upon the experiences of professionals and coaches and scientific papers published by researchers in the fields of biomechanics and physiology. What became very clear was the gap or disconnect that existed between the two. There is nothing that really link the two together.

I believe it was this disconnect that prompted me to explore or investigate how the body actually acquires movement patterns and skills and led me to the field of motor learning and control. And it was here that I was introduced to the concept of complex systems and chaos theory. Which for me opened up an entirely new way of viewing how the body acquires and develops the ability to maximally and is important optimally throw the baseball.

Chaos theory

Chaos theory begins where the traditional scientific method stops. Since the 1960’s, scientists all over the world have investigated the application of chaos theory to various dynamical systems in fields such as biochemistry, biology, economics, mathematics, medicine, motor control, philosophy, physics, and psychology.

Emanating from the work of Newton, the predominant approach throughout the fields of science has employed a reductionist philosophy. This microscopic approach examines isolated parts of a complex system (in our case how the body throws the baseball) in hopes that by understanding the parts, the whole would also be understood.

No better example of this is the baseball throwing sequence that exists in every textbook or article written on pitching mechanics.

This linear reductionist approach requires that the researcher isolate a variable or variables within the system under study for data collection at a specific time. Isolating and understanding the parts of a complex system has not led to an understanding of the whole. Comparable results throughout the scientific community led a number of researchers to realize "the futility of studying parts in isolation from the whole" and signified an end to their reductionist philosophy in science. New explanations to resolve complex phenomena were needed.

As a science, chaos is interested in finding the difference between error and noise in complex systems. Its goal is to examine and understand the whole in its simplest form. The science of chaos is driven by the belief that simple nonlinear systems (how the body throws the baseball) can produce complex results. The focus is on determining the universal relationships and boundaries of that system. Chaos is not about disorder. Rather, it attempts to find the order in a seemingly chaotic system. By utilizing a progression of measurements over time and space, models can be developed to simulate the behavior of complex systems. Chaos theorists believe that viewing the world from a different perspective allows one the opportunity to see.

In a more practical application to the field of sport, the chaos perspective allows researchers the opportunity to focus on "how" instead of only "why." For example, instead of focusing on why the flow experience occurs in throwing a baseball, researchers could examine how the experience occurs. Once the path is established, researchers are often able to foresee the variables which cause the system to display unpredictable behavior.
Thus, developing a mathematically-based model of the throwing process correlates which lead to the development of flow in sport might help scientists identify the controlling variables. The variables thought to contribute to the development of momentum could be measured and plotted, allowing researchers to identify strange attractors which lead to the development of positive or negative momentum.

The butterfly effect

Using chaos and complex systems theory the influence of sensitive dependence could likewise be examined. Subtle initial differences such as throwing tempo, how the balls taken out of the glove, when the ball was taken out of the glove affecting and effecting throwing performance .

The chaos theory perspective would also allow sport scientists to return to the study of phenomena on a human scale by providing researchers a macroscopic approach to understanding complex systems. Individual parts of a system would no longer have to be studied in isolation because the chaos method of discovery is capable of measuring and plotting an unlimited number of variables over time. Perhaps this approach will help us better understand complex sport behavior.

Next time the 93 MPH Matt Harvey Versus the 99 Mph Matt Harvey and Will Be 99 Mph Matt Harvey Return in 2017?

 

 

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