Variability in Baseball Throwing Metrics During a Structured Long-Toss Program: Does One Size Fit All or Should Programs Be Individualized?

Academic Article

Abstract

  • © 2019 The Author(s). Background: The variability of throwing metrics, particularly elbow torque and ball velocity, during structured long-toss programs is unknown. Hypotheses: (1) Elbow torque and ball velocity would increase as throwers progressed through a structured long-toss program and (2) intrathrower reliability would be high while interthrower reliability would be variable. Study Design: Descriptive laboratory study. Level of Evidence: Level 3. Methods: Sixty healthy high school and collegiate pitchers participated in a structured long-toss program while wearing a validated inertial measurement unit, which measured arm slot, arm velocity, shoulder rotation, and elbow varus torque. Ball velocity was assessed by radar gun. These metrics were compared within and between all pitchers at 90, 120, 150, and 180 ft and maximum effort mound pitching. Intra- and interthrower reliabilities were calculated for each metric at every stage of the program. Results: Ball velocity significantly changed at each progressive throwing distance, but elbow torque did not. Pitching from the mound did not place more torque on the elbow than long-toss throwing from 120 ft and beyond. Intrathrower reliability was excellent (intraclass correlation coefficient >0.75) throughout the progressive long-toss program, especially on the mound. Ninety-one percent of throwers had acceptable interthrower reliability (coefficient of variation <5%) for ball velocity, whereas only 79% of throwers had acceptable interthrower reliability for elbow torque. Conclusion: Based on trends in elbow torque, it may be practical to incorporate pitching from the mound earlier in the program (once a player is comfortable throwing from 120 ft). Ball velocity and elbow torque do not necessarily correlate with one another, so a degree of caution should be exercised when using radar guns to estimate elbow torque. Given the variability in elbow torque between throwers, some athletes would likely benefit from an individualized throwing program. Clinical Relevance: Increased ball velocity does not necessarily equate to increased elbow torque in long-toss. Some individuals would likely benefit from individualized long-toss programs for rehabilitation.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Leafblad ND; Larson DR; Fleisig GS; Conte S; Fealy SA; Dines JS; D’Angelo J; Camp CL
  • Start Page

  • 535
  • End Page

  • 542
  • Volume

  • 11
  • Issue

  • 6