Lateral trunk lean in pitchers affects both ball velocity and upper extremity joint moments

Am J Sports Med. 2015 May;43(5):1235-40. doi: 10.1177/0363546515574060. Epub 2015 Mar 11.


Background: The incidence of upper extremity injuries in baseball pitchers is increasing. Over the past decade there has been a great deal of research attempting to elucidate the cause of these injuries, focusing mainly on the mechanics of the pitching arm with no examination of other key segments, such as the trunk. This is surprising, as coaches will often comment on trunk position in an effort to improve pitching outcomes.

Purpose: To determine the association between contralateral trunk lean and ball velocity and the moments about the elbow and glenohumeral joint.

Study design: Descriptive laboratory study.

Methods: A total of 99 pitchers were recruited for this study and underwent a pitching analysis using 3-dimensional motion analysis techniques. A random intercept mixed-effects regression model was used to determine if statistically significant associations existed between contralateral trunk lean (away from the pitching arm side) and ball velocity, as well as the elbow varus moment and glenohumeral internal rotation moment.

Results: The results demonstrated that the greatest contralateral trunk lean occurs around the time of the peak elbow varus moment. Statistically significant associations were found between contralateral trunk lean and increased ball velocity (P=.003) indicating that for every 10° increase in contralateral lean, ball velocity increased 0.5 m/s. Results also indicated that for every 10° increase in contralateral lean, elbow varus moments increased by 3.7 N·m and glenohumeral internal rotation moments increased by 2.5 N·m (P<.001 for both).

Conclusion: Study findings indicate that the positioning of the trunk plays a substantial role in pitching performance and pitcher injury potential. This work helps to demonstrate the importance of proper trunk mechanics in pitching and highlights the need for future research to understand the contribution of the trunk to pitching mechanics.

Clinical relevance: Pitching coaches and trainers can use the results of this study to stress the importance of proper trunk mechanics in pitching. Specifically, improving core strength and trunk control in an effort to maintain a more upright posture through the pitching cycle can reduce upper extremity joint stresses.

Keywords: biomechanics; elbow; moments; pitching; trunk.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Arm Injuries / etiology
  • Baseball / injuries
  • Baseball / physiology*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Elbow Injuries
  • Elbow Joint / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Posture
  • Rotation
  • Shoulder Injuries
  • Shoulder Joint / physiology*
  • Torso
  • Young Adult