Prevented maintenance

John Coddington, left, works with Blake Schulte, 11, of Portage, during an "Essentials of Throwing" session at Bases Loaded in Valparaiso.

VALPARAISO | John Coddington believes in pitch counts, but he warns that they are not always magic numbers for preventing arm injuries.

"It doesn't matter to stick to them or not if your mechanics are wrong," he said, "You're eventually going to break down, anyway."

Sometimes, Coddington can detect a break-down before it happens.

"My son lives out in the Washington D.C. area, and several years ago he called and asked me what I thought about the Nationals' rookie at the time," Coddington said of Stephen Strasburg, who had just struck out 14 in seven innings in his Major League Baseball debut in 2010.

"I said he's very talented, but I told him his mechanics were bad and he would likely have arm problems in the near future."

Sure enough, Strasburg needed Tommy John Surgery by the end of the season.

For more than 40 years, Coddington has helped rehab damaged athletes, initially as an athletic therapist at Accelerated Rehab in South Bend. In 1998, he founded Michiana Sports Medicine based in the Mishawaka/South Bend area.

Keep reading for FREE!
Enjoy more articles by signing up or logging in. No credit card required.

Periodically on Saturday mornings and afternoons, Coddington and his wife, Lynn, hold "Essentials of Throwing" camp sessions at Bases Loaded in Valparaiso.

"What we're trying to do here is save arms before they need surgery," Coddington said of the sessions, which cater to youth baseball and softball players. "Two of the biggest problems kids have when they throw is they use too much of their arms and shoulders and not enough of their hips and cores, and they don't stride long enough when making a throw.

"Your stride should be at least 80 percent of your height."

Throughout his time, Coddington has seen advances in sports medicine, but is wary of the myths that often accompany them.

"I've heard people claim that surgery can actually make an arm stronger and better," he said, "but I believe it's more from the athlete adjusting to throw more properly after an operation that is the real reason for the improvement."

A prime example of this was Tommy John himself. After his namesake surgery, John went on to have three 20-game-winning seasons and amassed more than half of his 288 career wins while pitching until he was 46.

"Maybe he should be in the hall of fame," Coddington said of John, whose inclusion vote percentage only got as high as 32 percent — 75 percent is needed for induction — before being removed from the ballot after his 15th and final attempt, "but his doctor (Frank Jobe) definitely should get in if they ever add a sports medicine wing."