Changes in Youth Baseball Pitching Biomechanics: A 7-Year Longitudinal Study
Pitching biomechanics are associated with performance and risk of injury in baseball. Previous studies have identified biomechanical differences between youth and adult pitchers but have not investigated changes within individual young pitchers as they mature.Hypothesis:
Pitching kinematics and kinetics will change significantly during a youth pitcher’s career.Study Design:
Descriptive laboratory study.Methods:
Pitching biomechanics were captured in an indoor laboratory with a 12-camera, 240-Hz motion analysis system for 51 youth pitchers who were in their first season of organized baseball with pitching. Each participant was retested annually for the next 6 years or until he was no longer pitching. Thirty kinematic and kinetic parameters were computed and averaged for 10 fastballs thrown by each player. Data were statistically analyzed for the 35 participants who were tested at least 3 times. Within-participant changes for each kinematic and kinetic parameter were tested by use of a mixed linear model with random effects (P < .05). Least squares means for sequential ages were compared via Tukey’s honestly significant difference test (P < .05).Results:
Three kinematic parameters that occur at the instant of foot contact—stride length, lead foot placement to the closed side, and trunk separation—increased with age. With age, shoulder external rotation at foot contact decreased while maximum shoulder external rotation increased. Shoulder and elbow forces and torques increased significantly with age. Year-to-year changes were most significant between 9 and 13 years of age for kinematics and between 13 and 15 years for normalized kinetics (ie, scaled by bodyweight and height).Conclusion:
During their first few years, youth pitchers improve their kinematics. Elbow and shoulder kinetics increase with time, particularly after age 13. Thus, prepubescent pitchers may work with their coaches to improve the motions and flexibility of the players’ bodies and the paths of their arms. Once proper mechanics are developed, adolescent pitchers can focus more on improving strength and power.