A Comparison of Pitching Biomechanics and Sport Specialization in High School Pitchers.
Hamer TJ, Rosen AB, Wilkins SJ, Nicholson KF, Bullock GS, Knarr BA.
Background: The prevalence of sport specialization in high school athletes continues to rise, particularly among baseball players. Previous research has focused on the incidence of injury among specialized and non-specialized athletes but has yet to examine the level of sport specialization and pitching biomechanics.
Hypotheses/Purpose: The purpose of this study was to investigate differences in pitching volume and biomechanics between low-, moderate-, and high-level specialized baseball pitchers. It was hypothesized that high-level specialized pitchers would have the most pitching volume within the current and previous years while low-level specialized pitchers would exhibit the least amount. The second hypothesis states that kinematics and kinetics commonly associated with performance and injury risk would differ between low-, moderate-, and high-level specialized pitchers.
Study Design: Case-Control Study
Methods: Thirty-six high school baseball pitchers completed a custom sport specialization questionnaire before participating in a three-dimensional pitching motion analysis. Sport specialization was based off current guidelines and categorized as low-, moderate-, and high-level specialized based upon self-reported outcomes. Pitchers then threw ≈10 fastballs from a mound engineered to professional specifications. Data averaged across fastballs was used for biomechanics variables. Key pitching biomechanical and pitching volume variables were compared between low-, moderate-, and high-level specialized pitchers.
Results: High-level specialized pitchers were older (p = 0.003), had larger body mass (p = 0.05) and BMI (p = 0.045), and threw faster (p = 0.01) compared to low-level specialized pitchers. Pitching volume and pitching biomechanics were similar across groups.
Conclusions: Pitching biomechanics were similar across groups, although high-level specialized pitchers threw with significantly higher throwing velocity compared to low-level pitchers. The low amount of pitching volume throughout the season may be responsible for the lack of additional observed differences. Further research should examine the relationship between pitching biomechanics, upper extremity strength and flexibility, and sport specialization.
Level of Evidence: Level III