Baseball Pitchers’ Kinematic Sequences and Their Relationship to Elbow and Shoulder Torque Production

Research paper by Donna Moxley Scarborough, Shannon E. Linderman, Javier E. Sanchez, Eric M. Berkson

Indexed on: 16 Jul '20Published on: 29 Jul '19Published in: Orthopaedic journal of sports medicine


Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine, Volume 7, Issue 7_suppl5, July 2019. Objectives:Ball velocity is generated during the overhead baseball pitch via efficient force transmission up the kinetic chain, from the lower body up and outward to the throwing hand. The kinematic sequence, or the sequential timing pattern of peak angular velocities of body segments during a pitch, provides insight to segment position and motion control that drives the kinetic chain (Putnam CA, 1993). Previous publications report an ideal kinematic sequence (KS) where the timing of each body segment’s peak angular velocity occurs in a proximal-to-distal (PDS) pattern resulting in greater ball velocity and reduction in throwing arm injury risk (Fortenbaugh D, et.al, 2009). A recent study revealed that baseball pitchers perform a variety of KSs (Scarborough DM et.al, 2018). There is no known investigation of the relationship of kinematic sequences and throwing arm joint torques. The purpose of this study was to 1) identify the number of different KSs performed by each pitcher and 2) compare elbow valgus and shoulder external rotation (ER) and extension (Ext) torques between the 3 primary KSs performed during the fastball pitch.Methods:Fourteen collegiate baseball pitchers (20.57 ± 1.91 yr) underwent 3D biomechanical pitch analysis using 20 motion-capture Vicon MX™ cameras (360 Hz). A total of 119 fastball pitches with an average of 8.5 ± 2.71 pitches per player were analyzed. Elbow valgus and shoulder external rotation and extension torques were calculated. The timing of peak angular velocities for the pelvis, trunk, arm, forearm and hand body segments were recorded to generate each pitch’s KS. KSs were then divided into groups based on similarities to the ideal PDS pattern. ANCOVA statistical analyses were performed to compare joint torques across these KS groups with ball velocity as a covariate.Results:A total of 13 different KSs were observed across the 14 pitchers resulting in an average of 3 ± 1.41 different KSs per pitcher. Three different primary KS groups were identified: (1) PDS group: with a KS closest to the ideal PDS pattern (2) the Altered Distal Upper Extremity segment: with the forearm peaking after the hand (the most common group) and (3) Altered Proximal Upper Extremity segment order with the arm segment peaking after the hand (2nd most common). Across these three primary KS patterns, statistically significant differences were noted for elbow valgus torque [F(62,2) = 8.785, ɳ2 = .221, p < 0.00], shoulder external rotation (ER) torque [F(62,2) = 14.127, ɳ2 = .313, p < 0.00] and shoulder extension (Ext) torque [F(62,2) = 13.237, ɳ2 = .299, p < 0.00] (Figure 1).Conclusion:Our findings demonstrate that collegiate baseball pitchers performed an average of 3 different kinematic sequence patterns during fastball pitching. This is the first study to demonstrate a relationship between KSs and elbow and shoulder torque production. As anticipated, the PDS KSs produced the least torque across the elbow and shoulder joints. Alterations in Distal Upper Extremity KS was most common and generated the greatest shoulder Ext torques. Alterations in the Proximal Upper Extremity KS demonstrated the greatest elbow valgus and shoulder ER. Further study of the influence of kinematic sequence on joint torques in the baseball pitch may provide insight into pitching injuries and injury avoidance programs.