Associations between timing in the baseball pitch and shoulder kinetics, elbow kinetics, and ball speed

Academic Article


  • Background: A baseball pitchers ability to maximize ball speed while avoiding shoulder and elbow injuries is an important determinant of a successful career. Pitching injuries are attributed to microtrauma brought about by the repetitive stress of highmagnitude shoulder and elbow kinetics. Hypothesis: Over a number of pitches, variations in timing peak angular velocities of trunk segment rotations will be significantly associated with ball speed and upper extremity kinetic parameters. Study Design: Descriptive laboratory study. Methods: Kinematic and kinetic data were derived from 9 to 15 fastball pitches performed by 16 active, healthy collegiate (n = 8) and professional (n = 8) pitchers via 3-dimensional motion capture (240 Hz). Each pitch was decomposed into 4 phases corresponding to the time between peak angular velocities of sequential body segment rotations. Four mixed models were used to evaluate which phases varied significantly in relation to ball speed, peak shoulder proximal force, peak shoulder internal rotation torque, and peak elbow varus torque. Mixed-model parameter coefficient estimates were used to quantify the influence of these variations in timing on ball speed and upper extremity kinetics. Results: All 4 mixed models were significant (P>.05). The time from stride-foot contact to peak pelvis angular velocity varied significantly in relation to all upper extremity kinetic parameters and ball speed. Increased time in this phase correlated with decreases in all parameters. Decreased ball speed also correlated with increased time between peak upper torso and elbow extension angular velocities. Decreased shoulder proximal force also correlated with increased time between peak pelvis and upper torso angular velocities. Conclusion: There are specific phases that vary in relation to ball speed and upper extremity kinetic parameters, reinforcing the importance of effectively and consistently timing segmental interactions. For the specific interactions that varied significantly, increased phase times were associated with decreased kinetics and ball speed. Clinical Relevance: Although increased time within specific phases correlates with decreases in the magnitude of upper extremity kinetics linked to overuse injuries, it also correlates with decreased ball speed. Based on these findings, it may appear that minimizing the risk of injury (ie, decreased kinetics) and maximizing performance quality (ie, increased ball speed) are incompatible with one another. However, there may be an optimal balance in timing that is effective for satisfying both outcomes. © 2012 The Author(s).
  • Authors

    Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Urbin MA; Fleisig GS; Abebe A; Andrews JR
  • Start Page

  • 336
  • End Page

  • 342
  • Volume

  • 41
  • Issue

  • 2