What is True “Hip Dissociation” For Quarterbacks?

When thinking about the throwing motion, we often times hear the term “hip dissociation” when describing the sequence between the loading phase and acceleration phase. This term is often times essential for quarterbacks to perform in order to maximize performance in relation to power and accuracy. We would agree that this is most definitely important, but is it the most important concept when it comes to the throwing motion? How do quarterbacks get better at this skill if it is? Today, we want to describe what this term is actually referring to and where it falls in line in importance in the throwing motion!

What is Hip Dissociation?

We get the question listed above quite a bit from our followers in social media. Quarterback coaches always talk about the importance of this term, but never really describe what is actually going on and why it is important for quarterbacks to perform in order to be successful. Let’s explain. During the loading phase of the motion, the quarterback will open up the front leg to the target which rotates the hips towards that target as well. The upper body rotates the opposite way as the ball is being loaded back in the throwing motion. Since the torso and hips are moving in opposite directions during this phase, this is what is known as “hip dissociation.”

Let’s Dig Deeper….

This is all good and great assuming that every single quarterback out there is going to present with the ability to perform this movement the same. This COULD NOT be further from the truth. We need to break down this movement even further in depth and get you to understand why many quarterbacks out there can not perform this movement like they should in order to be successful. For a right handed quarterback, whenever the hips are rotating during the loading phase, the left hip is going into hip external rotation while the right hip goes into hip internal rotation. The lower part of the spine (lumbar spine) actually should not be moving at all. This is always the weak point of the throwing motion and where issues glare. The upper part of the spine (thoracic spine) is going into right rotation.

Here’s the Issue…

Many of the quarterbacks out there are not going to present with the same range of motion qualities in the hip and spine, as well as stability qualities in the torso to be able to perform this movement under high velocity. I want you to please re-read the previous sentence. When quarterbacks are taught drills like the one Dak Prescott performs before games, this can actually put you further into a hole in having bad mechanics since you don’t have the pre-requisite capability to perform the movement the right way.

Dak Prescott

We thought that this video of Dak Prescott is a great example of lacking some pre-requisite qualities within the body that leave a lot of performance on the table. We want you to watch this video very carefully. First off, notice his back foot. With the back foot turned out during the beginning of the acceleration phase, we know that he’s not able to produce a lot of power through the hips because we need this foot to start to be pointing inward. A foot that is pointing inward is one that is going into hip internal rotation which creates power. Second, notice his low back when he is “supposedly” performing hip dissociation. It is very rounded and over extended which means that he is compensating during his throwing motion. Is Dak getting better by practicing this movement with range of motion restrictions in his hips which is causing stability problems in his trunk? No, he’s actually making his motion worse by doing this. Check out the video below to see more common issues when working on hip dissociation specifically.

How do you know?

The next question that most of y’all are going to as is “How do I know if present with these restrictions that don’t allow me to dissociate properly?” Well, you’re not going to unless you get properly screened by a movement expert to see if you are able to perform the throwing motion the right way. This is the exact reason why we have created the QB Performance Screen. There has to be an evaluation process in place to make sure that you have the ability to perform this before you actually start practicing it. With that said, we have included 3 videos below to start you down the process of fixing the big 3 common issues that we see in the areas listed above.

Other Coaching Points

There’s a group of coaches out there (not going to mention any names) that are teaching quarterbacks to turn the back foot in in their pre pass position. In theory, this might be a way to “compensate the compensation”, but there’s a whole host of issues that come with trying to perform this with quarterbacks as well. No matter where you place the foot, if a quarterback lacks the ability to produce the range of motion at the hip (like he should be doing), then he will compensate somewhere else. The two most noticeable areas where the compensations happen are at the foot and at the knee. At the foot, the arch will have a tendency to collapse which causes a sequence of instability up the chain. The knee will be pulled inside the hip causing a “valgus” at the knee which is an extremely unstable position for the hip and the trunk. It’s literally impossible to compensate the compensation. This is something that has to be worked on in a very specific manner. Below is a comparison of NFL quarterbacks. In the first set of images, the QB on the left has great ability to rotate through his hips and the QB on the right does not. The pictures below that show more examples of quarterbacks from past and present that display great ability to rotate through their hips.

So What Now?

We think it is extremely important for quarterbacks and quarterback coaches to understand that the term “hip dissociation” is a garbage can term that can cause a lot more harm than good for quarterbacks if the term isn’t defined. Without a definition, movement quality will always be poor if the quarterback is already performing on a rocky foundation. In order to clean up movement quality, you have to clean up the pre-requisite mobility, stability, and motor control first. There’s literally no way around it. There are absolutely no short cuts here. If you want to throw with efficiency, accuracy, and power, please reach out to us because we can help. We will be able to tell you your exact impairments and then how to fix them. We look forward to hearing from a lot of you. Please text/call at 812-343-4226 and email at drew@theqbdocs.com.

-Drew Kiel PT, DPT, CSCS

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