Are the hamstrings from the drive leg or landing leg more active in baseball pitchers? An electromyographic study

J Shoulder Elbow Surg. 2017 Nov;26(11):2010-2016. doi: 10.1016/j.jse.2017.06.041. Epub 2017 Sep 15.


Background: Ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction (UCLR) has become a common procedure among baseball players of all levels. There are several graft choices in performing UCLR, one of which is a hamstring (gracilis or semitendinosus) autograft. It is unclear whether the hamstring muscle from a pitcher's drive leg (ipsilateral side of the UCLR) or landing leg (contralateral side of the UCLR) is more active during the pitching motion. We hypothesized that the landing leg semitendinosus will be more electromyographically active than the drive leg.

Methods: Healthy, elite male pitchers aged 16-21 years were recruited. Sixteen pitchers (average age, 17.6 ± 1.6 years; 67% threw right handed) underwent electromyographic analysis. Pitchers threw 5 fastballs at 100% effort from the wind-up with electromyographic analysis of every pitch. Activation of the semitendinosus and biceps femoris in both legs was compared within pitchers and between pitchers.

Results: Hamstring activity was higher in the drive leg than in the landing leg during each phase and in sum, although the difference was significant only during the double support phase (P = .021). On within-pitcher analysis, 10 of 16 pitchers had significantly more sum hamstring activity in the drive leg than in the landing leg, while only 4 of 16 had more activity in the landing leg (P = .043).

Conclusion: During the baseball pitch, muscle activity of the semitendinosus was higher in the drive leg than in the landing leg in most pitchers. Surgeons performing UCLR using hamstring autograft should consider harvesting the graft from the pitcher's landing leg to minimize disruption to the athlete's pitching motion.

Keywords: Tommy John; Ulnar collateral ligament (UCL); Ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction (UCLR); baseball; electromyography; hamstring; pitcher; surgery.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Athletes
  • Baseball / physiology*
  • Electromyography*
  • Hamstring Muscles / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Young Adult