Background: It is estimated that nearly 6% of youth baseball participants seek medical attention for injuries sustained during play. Most injuries are overuse injuries, and 26% are to the shoulder or upper arm. By quantifying youth pitching biomechanics, knowledge can be gained concerning the manner in which these injuries are sustained during play.
Methods: Sixteen healthy right hand-dominant baseball pitchers participated in this study. After digitization of 21 bony landmarks, kinematic calculations were conducted using the 3-dimensional coordinates from each video frame. Data were time normalized, forcing major temporal components of the movement to occur at specific intervals. Segment-based reference frames were established, and resultant joint kinetics were projected onto each reference frame. Kinetic data were normalized and calculated along or about the anterior/posterior, medial/lateral, and proximal/distal axes.
Results: Maximum trunk rotation and external shoulder rotation were observed during arm cocking. Each of the remaining kinematic parameters peaked after ball release. All maximum values for joint kinetics were measured during arm cocking with the exception of compressive forces experienced at the shoulder and elbow, which peaked after the instant of ball release.
Conclusions: Data produced in this study indicate that youth pitchers initiate trunk rotation early in the movement, which can lead to shoulder hyperangulation. Opposing torques at each end of the humerus also produce a large net torque about the longitudinal axis of the humerus during late arm cocking and may increase humeral retrotorsion in youth pitchers. Underdeveloped musculature in the rotator cuff may lead to difficulty controlling throwing-arm deceleration, causing an increase in horizontal adduction across the torso.
Clinical relevance: An improved understanding of youth pitching mechanics is gained from the data collected, analyzed, and discussed in this study. Through increases in the knowledge pertaining specifically to the mechanics of youth pitchers, the opportunity to develop pitching mechanics specifically designed for preventing injuries in little league pitchers arises.
Level of evidence: This study is a Level 4 study describing youth pitching biomechanics and how they relate to possible injuries.