Q: There have been a few quadriceps pulls in MLB this year. Have you seen these before in baseball players? What gives?
A: This is why I love baseball; it's probably one of the most at-risk sports you'll ever see (particularly in pitchers). Here's a little excerpt from a slide from my training for overhead athletes presentation in Chicago last weekend:
-Very Long Competitive Season
>200 games as a pro?
-Unilateral Dominance/Handedness Patterns
Asymmetry is a big predictor of injury
Switch hitters – but no “switch throwers!”
-The best pitchers – with a few exceptions – are the tallest ones. The longer the spine, the tougher it is to stabilize.
-Short off-season + Long in-season w/daily games = tough to build/maintain strength, power, flexibility, and optimal soft tissue quality
Specific to the quad pulls, I'd add to this list that baseball guys rarely hit top speed; all of their sprint work is done in acceleration, where the quads are dominant. Factor in that they spend a lot of time sitting on airplanes/buses, and it's no surprise that they'd get tight anteriorly. It's why it's so important to really hammer on hip mobility in any population that sits a lot.
The stop and go nature of the sport also dictates that strains would be common, whether they are groins, hip flexors, hamstrings, or quads (likely rectus femoris, which is a hip flexor that can get overactive, particularly alongside poor psoas function).
So, all that said, before anyone jumps to conclusions and tries to criticize some strength coach, it's important to consider:
a) the certain amount of happenstance that occurs with any baseball player due to the nature of the game and the season
b) what that athlete does on his own in the off-season
In terms of "b," I’ve seen some pretty bad stuff, unfortunately. For many guys, it becomes a leg extensions and curls off-season if they're on their own - or they do nothing.
I'd like to think that our success in working with baseball guys is not just in the fact that we've made the programming good, but also in the fact that we've changed the culture a bit in our guys: they appreciate what lifting is doing for them and look forward to getting after it in the gym.