Phil Stotter, Director of Sports Science
How do you pitch on a broken leg? Ask Atlanta Braves Pitcher, Charlie Morton.
By now, everyone has heard how Charlie Morton was struck by a 102.4 MPH ball off the bat of Houston Astros Yuli Gurriel in Game 1 of the World Series, fracturing his fibula. We also heard how Morton stayed in the game to throw 16 more pitches and strike out Jose Altuvé.
How is this possible? Put simply, Morton’s connection to the ground. Understanding how much force a pitcher places on each leg allows us to comprehend how it was possible for Morton to continue to pitch.
Let’s break this down. The ball that struck Morton broke his right leg (fibula), or what is called his “drive leg” on a right handed pitcher. Why is this significant? Multiple studies suggest that force from the plant leg (left leg on a right handed pitcher) is directly correlated to maximizing peak pitching velocities. This action allowed Morton to block his momentum, pushing energy back through the kinetic chain, and efficiently drive rotation into release. In a study by Driveline, they measured athletes peak force in their plant leg reaching up to 400 pounds of their weight. With that kind of force on one’s leg, it would have been pretty hard for Morton to have continued to pitch if he had broken the plant leg.
From a biomechanics perspective, the lower body is responsible for the generation of force necessary to throw a pitch at peak velocities. This movement of power and efficiency is created from a player’s ability to connect with the ground and use the kinetic energy the ground delivers to maximize the force and velocity necessary to pitch at this elite level.
With all that said, it’s pretty amazing Morton was able to continue to pitch on a broken leg. Now we can “see” why he “felt” he could keep on pitching.
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