Relationship of Biomechanical Factors to Baseball Pitching Velocity: Within Pitcher Variation

in Journal of Applied Biomechanics
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To reach the level of elite, most baseball pitchers need to consistently produce high ball velocity but avoid high joint loads at the shoulder and elbow that may lead to injury. This study examined the relationship between fastball velocity and variations in throwing mechanics within 19 baseball pitchers who were analyzed via 3-D high-speed motion analysis. Inclusion in the study required each one to demonstrate a variation in velocity of at least 1.8 m/s (range 1.8–3.5 m/s) during 6 to 10 fastball pitch trials. Three mixed model analyses were performed to assess the independent effects of 7 kinetic, 11 temporal, and 12 kinematic parameters on pitched ball velocity. Results indicated that elbow flexion torque, shoulder proximal force, and elbow proximal force were the only three kinetic parameters significantly associated with increased ball velocity. Two temporal parameters (increased time to max shoulder horizontal adduction and decreased time to max shoulder internal rotation) and three kinematic parameters (decreased shoulder horizontal adduction at foot contact, decreased shoulder abduction during acceleration, and increased trunk tilt forward at release) were significantly related to increased ball velocity. These results point to variations in an individual's throwing mechanics that relate to pitched ball velocity, and also suggest that pitchers should focus on consistent mechanics to produce consistently high fastball velocities. In addition, pitchers should strengthen shoulder and elbow musculature that resist distraction as well as improve trunk strength and flexibility to maximize pitching velocity and help prevent injury.

Kinesiology Division, 214 Eppler South, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH 43403

American Sports Medicine Institute, 1313 13th St. South, Birmingham, AL 35205

Dept. of Kinesiology, PO Box 770 Southwestern University, Georgetown, TX 78627-0770.