It's often the first, and best, question you can ask when troubleshooting a system.
But not always.
And, even when it is a relevant question, the truth is more complicated, because the change happened well before the present.
Paperclips and Paradigms
Take a paperclip. Straighten it. Then start bending it back and forth.
Until it breaks.
There are two ways of explaining what happened; why the paperclip failed...
- Something Changed: The paperclip failed because Something Changed; you did something differently the last time you flexed the paperclip.
- The Straw that Broke the Camel's Back: The paperclip failed due to Fatigue; due to the accumulated stress and damage of all of the flexes up until and including the last flex.
I would hope you understand that the failure of the paperclip was a case of the Straw that Broke that Camel's Back -- of the material failing due to fatigue -- and not because you did something different on the last flex.
The last flex was just the straw that broke the camel's back; the flex that (happened to) finish off the paperclip. The issue wasn't that the last flex was especially bad or even different. It just happened to be the one that pushed the paperclip past the breaking point.
The paperclip would still have failed even if you were more Consistent in how you flexed it.
The Epidemic as a Paradigm Problem
I would argue that the Tommy John surgery and Thoracic Outlet Syndrome epidemic in baseball pitchers is being perpetuated by people's sticking with The Repeatability Paradigm when it's more of a Camel's Back scenario.
As I discuss in a number of pieces, the problem with Stephen Strasburg's pitching mechanics is NOT that he doesn't repeat them.
Rather, the problem is Stephen Strasburg repeats this all too well.
Stephen Strasburg Demonstrating Flat Arm Syndrome
As I have been trying to make clear for years, Stephen Strasburg's pitching mechanics are fatally flawed, starting with what I call the Horizontal W, which is more directly relevant than his indirectly, but still problematic Inverted W.
The Two Problems
When I listen to people talking about pitching injuries, I see them make two classes of mistakes.
Change is Part of the Problem, But...
The Repeatability/Change Paradigm isn't completely wrong.
Change IS part of the problem.
However I'd argue that the critical change in pitchers' mechanics took place 20 YEARS ago, not 20 seconds ago.
In the Preface to The Epidemic I discuss some of the changes in how ballplayers are being taught to throw and/or pitch that in my opinion explain why throwers and pitchers are putting more stress on their arms and are having problems (much) sooner than people did in the past.
Dylan Bundy Scap Loading
I believe there are five new(er) ideas that pitchers are being taught and that are causing the majority of the problems with pitchers.
What's worse, these movements have been labelled proper pitching mechanics by prominent organizations like The Mayo Clinic.
The Problem in PT
I've talked to a lot of Physical Therapists (PTs) and I think they have their own paradigm problem. In their case, it's the idea that injuries are the result of weaknesses. I would argue that paradigm is lacking in at least two ways.
First is the problem of Deactivation. In short, I don't care how strong you are if your pitching mechanics de-activate those same muscles at the point of maximum load, which is exactly the problem with Premature Pronation.
The second problem is Overload. There's only so much the body can do to handle a load. if you strengthen one part of the kinetic chain, but still overload it, the failure will just shift to another link in the chain. I'd argue that is why we are seeing more Lat, Triceps, and Biceps problems in pitchers. Yes, rotator cuffs are getting stronger, but the failure point is just being shifted, not eliminated.
Paradigm Blindness: An Example
I recently came across this ESPN piece that I can't explain except as an example of paradigm blindness.
Frame-by-frame: Inside Max Scherzer's unusual delivery
Wheeler's delivery represents what we see from many pitchers across the league, and isn't wrong by any means.
On the other hand, Wheeler's is what's known in baseball as completely spread out (past full extension) by this point, which often leads to the arm dragging and a delivery that isn't on time.
I don't understand the vacillation.
Either what Wheeler does is wrong or it's not.
And the science behind The Epidemic suggests it's wrong.