Effects of Mound Versus Flat-Ground Pitching and Distance on Arm Mechanics and Elbow Torque in High School Pitchers

Brittany Dowling, Kathryn D. McElheny, Christopher L. Camp, Daphne I. Ling, Joshua S. Dines

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background: Although the monitoring of a pitcher’s throwing arm workload has become a hot topic in both research and the pitching world, the impact of mound height and distance still remains unclear. Purpose: To compare the kinetics and kinematics between pitches from a mound and flat ground at 2 different distances. Study Design: Descriptive laboratory study. Methods: A total of 21 healthy high school varsity baseball pitchers (age, 16.2 ± 1.3 years; weight, 73.6 ± 11.0 kg; height, 181.3 ± 6.4 cm) participated in this study. Players were fitted with a motusBASEBALL sensor and sleeve. Each pitcher was instructed to pitch 5 fastballs under 4 conditions: mound at 60.5 ft (regulation distance), flat ground at 60.5 ft, mound at 50.5 ft, and flat ground at 50.5 ft. Linear mixed-effects models were used to account for both intra- and interplayer variability. A multivariable model was used to evaluate the association of mound pitching, flat-ground pitching, and their distances (50.5 ft and 60.5 ft), and their interaction to arm speed, arm slot, arm rotation, elbow varus torque, and ball velocity. Results: There were no statistically significant effects of mound, flat-ground, or distance variation on arm speed or shoulder rotation. Arm slot was significantly higher (+3.0°; P =.02) on pitches from the mound at 60.5 ft compared with 50.5 ft. Elbow varus torque was lower (–1.5 N·m; P =.02) on mound pitches at 60.5 ft compared with 50.5 ft. Pitches thrown from the mound displayed significantly faster ball velocity compared with flat-ground pitches at both distances (P <.01 for both), with pitches at 60.5 ft having higher velocity (+0.7 m/s; P <.01). Conclusion: Contrary to long-standing notions, the study results suggest that pitching from the mound does not significantly increase stress on the elbow compared with flat-ground pitching. Lower elbow varus torque and faster ball velocity at the regulation distance compared with the reduced distance indicate that elbow stress and ball velocity may not correlate perfectly, and radar guns may not be an appropriate surrogate measure of elbow varus torque. Clinical Relevance: A better understanding of the kinetic and kinematic implications of various throwing programs will allow for the designing of programs that are driven by objective data with aims directed toward injury prevention and rehabilitation in baseball pitchers.

Original languageEnglish
JournalOrthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine
Volume8
Issue number12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

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