Effects of a six-week weighted-implement throwing program on baseball pitching velocity, kinematics, arm stress, and arm range of motion

Joseph A Marsh, Matthew I Wagshol, Kyle J Boddy, Michael E O'Connell, Sam J Briend, Kyle E Lindley, Alex Caravan
PeerJ 2018, 6: e6003

Background: Weighted-baseball training programs are used at the high school, collegiate, and professional levels of baseball. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effects of a six-week training period consisting of weighted implements, manual therapy, weightlifting, and other modalities on shoulder external rotation, elbow valgus stress, pitching velocity, and kinematics.

Hypothesis: A six-week training program that includes weighted implements will increase pitching velocity along with concomitant increases in arm angular velocities, joint kinetics, and shoulder external rotation.

Methods: Seventeen collegiate and professional baseball pitchers (age range 18-23, average: 19.9 ± 1.3) training at Driveline Baseball were evaluated via a combination of an eight-camera motion-capture system, range-of-motion measurements and radar- and pitch-tracking equipment, both before and after a six-week training period. Each participant received individualized training programs, with significant overlap in training methods for all athletes. Twenty-eight biomechanical parameters were computed for each bullpen trial, four arm range-of-motion measurements were taken, and pitching velocities were recorded before and after the training period. Pre- and post-training period data were compared via post-hoc paired t tests.

Results: There was no change in pitching velocity across the seventeen subjects. Four biomechanical parameters for the holistic group were significantly changed after the training period: internal rotational velocity was higher (from 4,527 ± 470 to 4,759 ± 542 degrees/second), shoulder abduction was lower at ball release (96 ± 7.6 to 93 ± 5.4°), the shoulder was less externally rotated at ball release (95 ± 15 to 86 ± 18°) and shoulder adduction torque was higher (from 103 ± 39 to 138 ± 53 N-m). Among the arm range of motion measurements, four were significantly different after the training period: the shoulder internal rotation range of motion and total range of motion for both the dominant and non-dominant arm. When the group was divided into those who gained pitching velocity and those who did not, neither group showed a significant increase in shoulder external rotation, or elbow valgus stress.

Conclusions: Following a six-week weighted implement program, pitchers did not show a significant change in velocity, joint kinetics, or shoulder external rotation range of motion. When comparing pitchers who gained velocity versus pitchers who did not, no statistically significant changes were seen in joint kinetics and shoulder range of motion.

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