Goal-directed movement is possible because the cortical regions regulating movement have continuous access to visual information. Extensive research from the various domains of motor control (i.e., neurophysiology, neuropsychology, and psychophysics) has documented the extent to which the unremitting availability of visual information enables the sensorimotor system to facilitate online control of goal-directed limb movement. However, the control mechanism guiding appreciably more complex movements characterized by ballistic, whole-body coordination is not well understood. In the overarm throw, for example, joint rotations must be optimally timed between body segments to exploit the passive flow of kinetic energy and, in turn, maximize projectile speed while maintaining accuracy. The purpose of this review is to draw from the various research domains in motor control and speculate on the nature of the sensorimotor control mechanism facilitating overarm throwing performance.
M. A. Urbin, David Stodden and Glenn Fleisig
Individual body segment actions evolve during throwing skill development. Maximal trunk involvement is typically the last feature of the movement pattern to fully develop. The current study examined developmental levels of trunk action and the associated variability in the throwing motion. The throwing motions of children and adolescents were analyzed via motion capture and trunk actions were classified as exhibiting no rotation (n = 7), blocked rotation (n = 6), or differentiated rotation (n = 11). Results indicated nonrotators exhibited greater variability than blocked-rotators in maximum humeral external rotation and humeral horizontal adduction angles at ball release; nonrotators also demonstrated greater variability than differentiated-rotators on these parameters, in addition to forward trunk tilt and elbow extension angle at ball release. Nonrotators produced more variable peak upper torso and humeral horizontal adduction angular velocities, as well as peak upper torso linear velocity, relative to differentiated-rotators. Blocked-rotators produced more variable peak pelvis, upper torso, and humeral horizontal adduction angular velocities, as well peak pelvis linear velocity, relative to differentiated-rotators. Nonrotators were less consistent relative to blocked- and differentiated-rotators in the time that elapsed from peak pelvis angular velocity to ball release. These results indicate that greater trunk involvement is associated with more consistent movement production.
M.A. Urbin, David Stodden, Rhonda Boros and David Shannon
The purpose of this study was to examine variability in overarm throwing velocity and spatial output error at various percentages of maximum to test the prediction of an inverted-U function as predicted by impulse-variability theory and a speed-accuracy trade-off as predicted by Fitts’ Law Thirty subjects (16 skilled, 14 unskilled) were instructed to throw a tennis ball at seven percentages of their maximum velocity (40–100%) in random order (9 trials per condition) at a target 30 feet away. Throwing velocity was measured with a radar gun and interpreted as an index of overall systemic power output. Within-subject throwing velocity variability was examined using within-subjects repeated-measures ANOVAs (7 repeated conditions) with built-in polynomial contrasts. Spatial error was analyzed using mixed model regression. Results indicated a quadratic fit with variability in throwing velocity increasing from 40% up to 60%, where it peaked, and then decreasing at each subsequent interval to maximum (p < .001, η2 = .555). There was no linear relationship between speed and accuracy. Overall, these data support the notion of an inverted-U function in overarm throwing velocity variability as both skilled and unskilled subjects approach maximum effort. However, these data do not support the notion of a speed-accuracy trade-off. The consistent demonstration of an inverted-U function associated with systemic power output variability indicates an enhanced capability to regulate aspects of force production and relative timing between segments as individuals approach maximum effort, even in a complex ballistic skill.