Steven Wright: Red Sox Knuckleballer

Red Sox pitcher Steven Wright returned home from Boston eager to begin his off season training. Within two weeks of returning to Santa Cruz, he realized something was not right. He had suffered a sports hernia in the spring of 2014 and started to feel some of the same symptoms again. What was causing this pain? He was not certain, and decided to come to me for help. The exercises he had been doing were not naturally harmful, but how he was performing them was becoming detrimental to his health and his ability to perform. Upon walking in, I watched how he walked and it was immediately evident what was wrong with his movement patterns. He had far too much instability in his low back and core. Due to his body’s ability to adapt, his hips took the role of his core and became extremely “stable” and tight. This overcompensating use of Steven’s hips caused a big problem. Hips must be mobile, and cores must be stable in order to perform at the highest level and to avoid injury. After subjective analysis, we ensured that no stone was left unturned by solidifying our observations with objective data from the OptoJump system. 

After observing Steven perform several tests and watching him pitch, I had a good subjective analysis of what I needed to teach his brain and his body throughout the off-season. The OptoJump would not only test Steven, but also test my subjective analysis and hypothesis of what he needed. This tool is invaluable on both sides of the corrective movement process, improving both athlete and coach means teamwork and results. 

His tests showed that he was asymmetrical. For a professional pitcher, I am ok with asymmetry within certain parameters. For example, I expect him to be able to push off better with his right leg than his left, since that is what he does for a living. However, at first, Steven was not able to control his body’s asymmetry. An analogy , paraphrased from the President of OptoJump, Dr. Peter Gorman, imagine your legs are two separate guns of varying power production. One leg being more powerful than another is only acceptable if you can aim both of the guns. The test results showed that Steven was “shooting blind” and did not have thenecessary control, and dynamic balance/stability required, to perform at his highest activity level without risk of injury. 

Once we determined how much work that was needed, we got started immediately. Instead of trying to fix a million things at once with only a millimeter of measurable progress in every direction, I chose to work on his body’s most fundamental issue, the way his core and hips worked together throughout his most relied upon movement pattern, rotating. 

Remember, Steven was pitching at the professional level with all these movement imperfections lingering in the background, ultimately holding him back. He had huge amounts of potential that was untapped because these learned, non-ideal motor patterns had never been corrected. Throughout the course of this blog series I will discuss how we progress through these movement challenges and help him feel, in his own words, “like he’s 18 again.” Hopefully, by the end of this blog series, you will be as excited as I am to watch how his ability to adapt, learn, and succeed has shaped his upcoming season.