Pitching Partnership

February 5, 2019

Wake Forest University athletics has teamed up with Wake Forest Baptist Health to analyze baseball pitching mechanics in a new $12 million facility, which houses a state-of-the-art biomechanics lab. The Wake Forest Baptist sports medicine team will work with Wake Forest student-athletes on a daily basis, helping to identify potentially dangerous pitching mechanics and prevent injury. This partnership is the first of its kind in college baseball.

“This is truly a groundbreaking partnership in college athletics,” Wake Forest Head Baseball Coach Tom Walter told WFMYNews2.com. “First and foremost, this ensures that the development and health of the Wake Forest pitching staff will be second to none in professional and amateur baseball. Equally important, however, is the opportunity to improve the game of baseball as a whole and put Winston-Salem at the epicenter of cutting-edge pitching analytics.”

Two members of Wake Forest Baptist Health will work directly with the athletes. Brian Waterman, MD, is the Team Physician and an Associate Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at Wake Forest Baptist, who specializes in shoulder and elbow care and works with the players on injury prevention and recovery. Kristen Nicholson, PhD, Director of the biomechanics lab and an Assistant Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at Wake Forest Baptist Health, specializes in scapular orientation.

“I have had the opportunity to work closely with many elite professional and collegiate athletes during my career as an orthopaedic surgeon, but to be involved with such a world-class facility is really special,” Dr. Waterman said. “Helping athletes prevent injuries is a major focus of our sports medicine team, and we are thrilled to be able to bring the expertise and research capabilities of Wake Forest Baptist’s academic medical center directly to the players who will use this facility.”

Dr. Waterman and Dr. Nicholson will be working closely with three staff members from Wake Forest’s baseball program: Pitching Coach John Hendricks; Assistant Athletic Trainer Jeff Strahm, ATC; and Assistant Director for Sports Performance Mark Seaver, CSCS, SCCC. Strahm has been Wake Forest baseball’s athletic trainer for more than 20 years, specializing in pre- and post-throw arm care. Seaver, a former Wake Forest pitcher who spent six seasons in the minor leagues, has been the team’s strength coach for more than a decade, specializing in mobility and stability. They will all work together to generate personalized pitching plans for Wake Forest’s pitchers, in order to optimize performance and health.

“What makes this lab special is not just the equipment or the building, it’s the collaboration between five extremely talented, intelligent and passionate experts in their respective fields.‎” said Walter.

Though this is a historic partnership at the college level, it will also benefit younger baseball players. The lab will be expanded to analyze athletes from various youth baseball organizations, and the additional biomechanical throwing data from these youth athletes combined with the data from college athletes will be used to identify the root causes of the arm injuries plaguing baseball. The long-term goal is to prevent many of these injuries from occurring in the first place.

“This is bigger than just Wake Forest,” Walter said. “Arm injuries have baffled the baseball world for decades. We’re excited about the opportunity to learn more about why these occur and use that information to help the next generation of baseball players.”

The facility that will house this collaboration is The Chris Hurd Player Development Center, which includes a new dugout and bullpen, locker room, equipment room, athletic training room, team lounge, and nutrition area, in addition to the pitching lab. There is also a team meeting room, dedicated video room, coaches’ offices, a biomechanist’s office, a conference room, game day suites, and a baseball heritage area.

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