Study design: Controlled laboratory study.
Objectives: To test for kinematic and kinetic differences between baseball pitching from a mound and long-toss on flat ground.
Background: Long-toss throws from flat ground are commonly used by baseball pitchers for rehabilitation, conditioning, and training. However, there is controversy over the biomechanics and functionality of such throws.
Methods: Seventeen healthy, college baseball pitchers pitched fastballs 18.4 m from a mound to a strike zone, and threw 37 m, 55 m, and maximum distance from flat ground. For the 37-m and 55-m throws, participants were instructed to throw "hard, on a horizontal line." For the maximum-distance throw, no constraint on trajectory was given. Kinematics and kinetics were measured with a 3-dimensional, automated motion analysis system. Repeated-measures analyses of variance, with post hoc paired t tests, were used to compare the 4 throw types within pitchers.
Results: At foot contact, the participant's shoulder line was nearly horizontal when pitching from a mound and became progressively more inclined as throwing distance increased. At arm cocking, the greatest amount of shoulder external rotation (mean ± SD, 180° ± 11°), elbow flexion (109° ± 10°), shoulder internal rotation torque (101 ± 17 Nm), and elbow varus torque (100 ± 18 Nm) were measured during the maximum-distance throws. Elbow extension velocity was also greatest for the maximum-distance throws (2573°/s ± 203°/s). Forward trunk tilt at the instant of ball release decreased as throwing distance increased.
Conclusion: Hard, horizontal, flat-ground throws have biomechanical patterns similar to those of pitching and are, therefore, reasonable exercises for pitchers. However, maximum-distance throws produce increased torques and changes in kinematics. Caution is, therefore, advised in the use of these throws for rehabilitation and training.