Adolescent Baseball Pitching Technique: Lower Extremity Biomechanical Analysis

in Journal of Applied Biomechanics
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Documentation of the lower extremity motion patterns of adolescent pitchers is an important part of understanding the pitching motion and the implication of lower extremity technique on upper extremity loads, injury and performance. The purpose of this study was to take the initial step in this process by documenting the biomechanics of the lower extremities during the pitching cycle in adolescent pitchers and to compare these findings with the published data for older pitchers. Three-dimensional motion analysis using a comprehensive lower extremity model was used to evaluate the fast ball pitch technique in adolescent pitchers. Thirty-two pitchers with a mean age of 12.4 years (range 10.5–14.7 years) and at least 2 years of experience were included in this study. The pitchers showed a mean of 49 ± 12° of knee flexion of the lead leg at foot contact. They tended to maintain this position through ball release, and then extended their knee during the follow through phase (ball release to maximal internal glenohumeral rotation). The lead leg hip rapidly progressed into adduction and flexion during the arm cocking phase with a range of motion of 40 ± 10° adduction and 30 ± 13° flexion. The lead hip mean peak adduction velocity was 434 ± 83°/s and flexion velocity was 456 ± 156°/s. Simultaneously, the trailing leg hip rapidly extended approaching to a mean peak extension of –8 ± 5° at 39% of the pitch cycle, which is close to passive range of motion constraints. Peak hip abduction of the trailing leg at foot contact was –31 ± 12°, which also approached passive range of motion constraints. Differences and similarities were also noted between the adolescent lower extremity kinematics and adult pitchers; however, a more comprehensive analysis using similar methods is needed for a complete comparison.

Matthew D. Milewski is with Elite Sports Medicine, Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, Hartford, CT, and with the University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington, CT. Sylvia Õunpuu and Matthew Solomito are with the Center for Motion Analysis, Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, Farmington, CT. Melany Westwell is with the Providence Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Providence, RI. Carl W. Nissen (Corresponding Author) is with Elite Sports Medicine, Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, Farmington, CT, and with the University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington, CT.