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How to avoid the big 'No-Bo' in your ball release.

I'VE GONE TO AN OFFSET THUMB. IT IS OFFSET 1/4" INCH TO the left of the centerline. My release is cleaner, but does a dropped ring finger hurt your release? How far offset should it be?

-- Bruce Sattler, San Antonio, Fla.

I am glad you have a ball driller who applied an offset thumb. For a hand that is big, meaty, or has a lot of skin in the web, an offset of 1/4" to 5/8" (or more as needed) will result in a cleaner release. The offset thumb helps the skin in the web "clear" the base of the thumb. This will result in a better feel of the grip and a cleaner feel at the release point.

An offset thumb is not right for everybody, but when required, really makes a difference getting the ball off the hand with a good feel. As to a dropped ring finger, it is not unusual for the span of the ring finger to be shorter in a regular fingertip grip. This is based on the difference between the first joint of the ring and middle finger being 3/8" or more.

There are still many uninformed "ball drillers" who drill the ring finger 1/4" longer because, decades ago, that is how the "cook book" said to drill the grip. The new rule of, er, thumb, is that the ring finger span is based on the difference in the first joints of the ring and middle finger. This may allow a span difference as varied as each individual's bone structure. It is not uncommon to see bowlers with a long ring finger span wearing an elbow wrap for their "tennis elbow," which is actually tendon strain caused by a long span or improper forward/reverse pitch in the ring finger.

Another misnomer involves the Sarge Easter grip. Some mislabel this a "dropped ring finger" type of drilling when, in actuality, it is a fingertip for the middle finger and a conventional grip for the ring finger. This grip is used by some high rev-rate power players to reduce revs/hook and to aid in getting a handle on the back ends.

Totally different grips with the same term used for both. Yes, it can get confusing, but we hope this helps you to better understand the necessity and value of both.

I recently had two new balls drilled and my hand aches after I bowl. My old balls did the same thing. A friend said I should look for a new grip. Would that help with the pain? How often does the grip need to be changed?

-- Jeff Albea, Columbus, Ohio

You neglected to mention when you last had a fresh fit. As years pass and we blow out birthday candles, keep in mind that we change physically. With each passing year, we lose flexibility in our joints, muscles and tendons. This lost flexibility will require changes in the span, grip hole pitches and possibly grip hole sizes and shape. When your hand becomes stiff, you will feel as though you must "grab" the ball in the swing so it does not fall off your hand. While those behind you may be glad if you do that, grabbing the ball tightens your swing. If you need to use the discounter's "Death Grip" during any part of your swing, you have lost the loose, free and natural swing from the shoulder. In addition, the tension from the excessive grip pressure will reduce your accuracy, control and power. Your muscles will be tense from your fingers through the arm, shoulder, and on into your back. In addition to the aforementioned negatives, you will tire faster and possibly suffer fatigue and pain after bowling. If you feel the need to grip or grab the ball at any point in the swing, or you can't feel the pads of your fingers against the inserts or holes, tire easily when bowling, or feel pain or tension in your hand or arm, it definitely is time at least have your grip checked.

As to altering your grip, I recommend a periodic change. As to how often, there is no length of time between grip changes etched in stone anywhere. Of course, youth bowlers need constant changes as they grow. This growth has led The Bowlers Shop to offer "One Year Free Fit" to all youth ball purchases. This is offered to help the parents with the burden of keeping up with the child's growth.

With our senior bowlers, if the grip has been in use for a year or more, we check the hand for a refit before drilling the ball. Our bowlers between the two ends of the spectrum will get a grip analysis each time a ball is purchased. If the specs are more than 18 months old, we will not proceed with a called-in order for drilling without looking at their hand for grip changes, and the ball for track and/or release changes. In other words, Jeff, if your grip is old (18 months or more), you can't just call to have a ball drilled for pickup without one of the staffers checking your fit. If your old grip is causing problems, we do not want to duplicate that grip. We want to put you into a "fresh" fit to give you a relaxed grip with a loose/free swing, and no pain or stress. With a good fit, the bowler should feel as though they have an egg in their hand and don't feel a need to "break the egg" with their grip pressure. As muscle strength is lost for whatever reason -- including carpal tunnel, tendonitis or old Uncle Arthur (as in arthritis) -- some radical grip changes may be applied. All of the above mentioned problems can contribute to fatigue and strain/pain.