High school and collegiate baseball pitchers experienced significantly greater torque when throwing fastballs compared with curveballs and change-ups, according to results published in Arthroscopy.
“The take home message of the study is that there’s a lot of sentiment out there that breaking pitches put the elbow at increased risk for injury, especially in the younger patient population,” Eric C. Makhni, MD, co-author of the study and a sports medicine orthopedic surgeon at Henry Ford Health System, told Healio.com/Orthopedics. “What our study showed was that the speed of the pitch placed the greatest torque on the elbow during throwing so the fastballs produced the greatest torque across the elbow and not the breaking pitches.”
In a study performed at the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, Makhni and colleagues measured elbow torque, arm speed, arm slot and shoulder rotation in 37 high school and collegiate baseball pitchers using a gyroscopic sensor with an accelerometer (Motus Global) in a wearable sleeve positioned directly over the medial elbow. The investigators also used a radar gun to measure peak ball velocity. Researchers collected body dimensions and throwing arm measurements, and instructed pitchers to throw eight fastballs, eight curveballs and eight change-ups in a standard, randomized sequence.
Results showed the greatest relative torque across the medial elbow was caused by fastballs vs. change-ups and curveballs. The most medial elbow torque was contributed by ball velocity, researchers found, followed by elbow circumference, where greater medial elbow torque was predicted by smaller elbow circumference.
Researchers noted a device precision of 96.9% for both fastballs and curveballs, and of 97.9% for change-ups. Researchers also found the device could distinguish pitches according to elbow torque, arm speed, arm slot and shoulder rotation.
According to Makhni, the researchers want to begin collecting information about what is creating higher torque and causing overuse injuries among the pediatric and adolescent population.
“We’re also going to look at different things like the type of throwing mechanics used. How does that impact torque?” Makhni sad. “We’re going to look at other applications like, ‘Does throwing a heavier ball cause greater torque or does throwing a lighter ball cause greater torque? We’re going to start digging in a little bit deeper now that we have demonstrated the reproducibility and the reliability of the device.” – by Casey Tingle
Makhni EC, et al. Arthroscopy. 2017;doi:10.1016/j.arthro.2017.09.045.
For more information:
Eric C. Makhni, MD, MBA, can be reached at Henry Ford Health System, division of sports medicine, department of orthopedic surgery, 2799 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit, MI 48202; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclosure: Makhni reports no relevant financial disclosures.