Posts tagged throwing velocity
The Impact of Core and Leg Muscle Fatigue on Baseball Throwing Mechanics

As we move into Spring we begin to see our youth athletes return to the baseball diamond often with a sudden increase in practice volume.  The sudden increase in throwing volume, either in the field or on the mound, places the athlete's shoulder and elbow at greater risk of baseball injuries. The greatest risk factors for injury include throwing more than 80 pitches/game, playing baseball greater than 8 months/year, and pitching with arm fatigue. As discussed in our prior posts, an athlete's throwing velocity is driven by their legs strength and power. Athletes with leg weakness are more likely to suffer from progressive changes in performance and increased injury risks.

A recent study in the Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine authors analyzed the impact of fatigue on throwing velocity, accuracy, and throwing mechanics (Chalmers et al. 2016). Authors studied 28 elite adolescent (13-16 year old) pitchers as they pitched a simulated game (90 pitches). Each pitch was analyzed for velocity and accuracy while every 15th pitch was analyzed for pitching mechanics. As expected the velocity, accuracy, and mechanics suffered with increased pitch counts. Importantly, the authors showed the loss of velocity, accuracy, and biomechanics were preceded first by core and leg muscle fatigue.

This study adds to the importance of controlling pitch counts and treating the lower extremities in order to improve throwing performance and reduce injury risk.  

Improving Throwing Velocity

A common question we receive from young throwers and their parents is how to improve throwing velocity safely without undue stress on their arms.  Our prior posts on throwing have focused on reducing arm stress through injury prevention and lower quarter strengthening.  This post will focus on the research surrounding exercise programs designed to improve a thrower's velocity of their pitches.  Ellenbecker et al. previously reported the lower body contributes 50% towards hand forces, while the shoulder only contributes 15%  (JOSPT, 2007).  As we would expect whole body, multimodal training aimed at the entire body improves throwing velocity both in short and long term training programs.

A recent analysis of the available evidence in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research examined the training programs shown to have the greatest impact on ball velocity in baseball, softball, or tennis (Myers, N. 2015).  13 articles were included in the final analysis and included interventions from plyometric training, medicine ball throws, and traditional upper and lower body resistance training.  These articles were scored as moderate to high quality based on a methodological analysis.  The training programs included were as short as 6 weeks or up to 9 months in length in a periodization format.  

The authors noted improvements in ball velocity across sports if the athletes were given whole body exercises focused on the connection between the legs and arm.   Longer term programs were most often used but short term programs, 6 weeks, also reported improvements in velocity.  Specifically, in tennis a 17 and 20 mph serve speed increase was noted with a 4 and 9 month resistance training program.  Athletes should speak with a Physical Therapist to determine how to structure their resistance training, plyometrics, and medicine ball throws in order to have an optimal impact on their ball velocity.