New Study Examines Effects of Mound vs. Flat Ground Pitching in High School Pitchers
In a new study, researchers found that there are no statistically significant effects of using a mound, flat ground or distance variation on arm speed or shoulder rotation in high school pitchers.
The results were published in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine on December 10, 2020.
“This is an important topic as we continuously look to refine and develop evidence-based injury-prevention and recovery guidelines for baseball pitchers,” said Joshua S. Dines, MD, sports medicine surgeon at HSS and senior author. “Creating data-driven programs requires us to have a better understanding of the kinetic and kinematic implications of a variety of throwing programs.”
Both elbow and shoulder injuries such as ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) tears continue to be on the rise in all baseball players but especially those at the high school level. UCL treatment (also known as Tommy John surgery) has increased sixfold over the last 20 years among this age group. To try to combat this, coaches and clinicians monitor workload, making constant adjustments to keep players healthy.
While workload has been a highly researched topic, the effects of mound height and distance to home plate have not been studied.
“As we’re monitoring pitchers’ workloads, we need to be aware of the stress being placed on the throwing arm elbow during training and rehabilitation in order to make the right adjustments to that individual pitcher’s training regimen,” added Dr. Dines.
Twenty-one healthy high school pitchers wore a sensor arm sleeve while pitching from four different conditions. The sensor and a radar gun were used to record data such as arm speed, arm slot, shoulder rotation, elbow varus torque and ball velocity. The results showed that there is no statistically significant difference between these variations.
“In the past, it has been assumed that throwing from flat ground was safer than throwing off of a mound due to increased elbow torque,” said study co-author Kathryn D. McElheny, MD, primary sports medicine physician at HSS. “Our study findings did not support this notion. Furthermore, we saw that elbow stress and ball velocity may not have a perfect correlation.”
The researchers concluded that pitchers were using similar mechanics (arm speed, shoulder rotation, elbow varus torque) whether throwing from the mound or flat ground, so this knowledge can be factored into player workload calculations.
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