Biomechanics of overhand throwing with implications for injuries

Sports Med. 1996 Jun;21(6):421-37. doi: 10.2165/00007256-199621060-00004.


Proper throwing mechanics may enable an athlete to achieve maximum performance with minimum chance of injury. While quantifiable differences do exist in proper mechanics for various sports, certain similarities are found in all overhand throws. One essential property is the utilisation of a kinetic chain to generate and transfer energy from the larger body parts to the smaller, more injury-prone upper extremity. This kinetic chain in throwing includes the following sequence of motions: stride, pelvis rotation, upper torso rotation, elbow extension, shoulder internal rotation and wrist flexion. As each joint rotates forward, the subsequent joint completes its rotation back into a cocked position, allowing the connecting segments and musculature to be stretched and eccentrically loaded. Most notable is the external rotation of the shoulder, which reaches a maximum value of approximately 180 degrees. This biomechanical measurement is a combination of true glenohumeral rotation, trunk hyperextension and scapulothoracic motion. Near the time of maximum shoulder external rotation (ERmax), shoulder and elbow musculature eccentrically contract to produce shoulder internal rotation torque and elbow varus torque. Both the shoulder and the elbow are susceptible to injury at this position. At ball release, significant energy and momentum have been transferred to the ball and throwing arm. After ball release, a kinetic chain is used to decelerate the rapidly moving arm with the entire body. Shoulder and elbow muscles produce large compressive forces to resist joint distraction. Both joints are susceptible to injury during arm deceleration.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arm / physiology
  • Athletic Injuries / etiology
  • Athletic Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Athletic Injuries / prevention & control
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Elbow Injuries
  • Elbow Joint / physiology
  • Energy Transfer
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Leg / physiology
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Pelvis / physiology
  • Rotation
  • Shoulder Injuries
  • Shoulder Joint / physiology
  • Sports / physiology*
  • Thorax / physiology
  • Torque
  • Wrist Joint / physiology