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I don't want another outbreak to happen. Here's what could help stop the next.

My velocity was down a couple of mph last game and my shoulder felt sore. As I was getting it evaluated by the trainer, I could tell he thought my shoulder was weak. One of the tests he ran had me extend my arms out to shoulder height as if I was going to embrace twenty people at the same time. The trainer then asked me to then open my hands and point my thumbs towards the ground. As he placed his hands on my wrists, he said, “Now resist.” So, I tried to push against him as he applied pressure downwards.

My left arm held pretty firm, but my right arm gave way with barely any push back.

“Hmm…” he said. “No pain?”

“No. No pain,” I replied.

“Okay stand over here and let me check your hips.”

“My hips?” I questioned.

“Stand on one foot, bend your knee, and try to do a one-legged squat.”

So, I tried. I was able to do it, mostly.

“Yup.” He said. “The stabilizer muscles in your hips are weak.”

“But, I was able to do the squat?!”

“But your knee was wobbling all over the place.”

After testing my core and examining my shoulder blade, he told me that I had weakness all the way up through my pitching chain. Left hip, core, the muscles holding my scapula in place, all weak. They were no longer able to transfer energy efficiently, which was putting more of the pitching forces into the shoulder muscles. After continued pitching in this condition, they became weak too.

“I have some shoulder exercises I want you to do. They’ll help restore the strength in your shoulder. But, without addressing those other bits, you’ll never get out of the hole. We need to strengthen all parts of the chain if we want to keep your shoulder strong.”

Just like my shoulder problems being caused by weakness elsewhere, most viruses that we have heard of in the news actually originated in animals. SARS, Ebola, bird flu, swine flu. The weakness that has caused these outbreaks has been something in the chain of how we are interacting with animals.

While we don’t always seem connected, we are.

Just like my hip stabilizers, core, and shoulder blade muscles put my shoulder in a vulnerable spot, how we are raising livestock and interacting with wild animals puts us in a very vulnerable position.

Factory farming puts livestock into unnaturally close quarters. This is the natural breeding ground for viruses and bacteria. The overcrowding is so intense that livestock have to be given anti-biotics in order to survive the conditions. The anti-biotics knock out most bacteria, but leave the most rugged, resistant ones alive. Some inevitably get transferred to us. How are we supposed to fight infections that are capable of surviving anti-biotic treatments?

In addition to the development of resistant bacteria, overcrowding promotes virus development as well. When the animal population gets too large for a given area, disease almost always erupts within the population. In a factory farm, this happens too. Entire flocks of chickens have had to be killed because they had a flu outbreak (bird flu). Factory farmed chickens are a ticking time bomb.

When we think of overcrowding, we generally don’t think about the wilderness, but we should. Over development has been forcing wild animals into smaller and smaller pockets of land. Because we continue developing into the wilderness, we are having regular interactions with animals that we little contact with before. These animals have diseases that we have never been exposed to. A recent outbreak of Ebola came from wild bats, for example.

You may have heard about the theory that a wet market in Wuhan, China is the source of the Coronavirus. This is a real possibility.

Most wet markets are similar to our farmer’s markets. Places where people go to get their fruits, veggies, and meat. No big deal. Some wet markets have live animals. Sometimes, wet markets have cooked wild animals. Rarely, and often illegally, a wet market may have live domesticated animals and live wild animals next to one another in cages. See where this chain is leading us? There is the potential of having wild animals with diseases that we have never encountered, livestock raised on factory farms with viruses and resistant bacteria, and large crowds of people all in a small space.

I used exercises to strengthen my shoulder, but if I didn’t address the other parts of the chain, I was bound to end up back where I was, with shoulder weakness and less velocity. Likewise, if we as a society choose to not address the other parts of our animal interaction chain, we will likely end up back where we are today, with a potent virus circulating and causing all sorts of havoc.

Who knew that my hips were protecting my shoulder? Who knew that the way we take care of animals protects our neighbors?


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