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HomePhysical TherapyThe Actual Cause Why Weighted Baseballs Enhance Pitching Velocity, and Harm Charges

The Actual Cause Why Weighted Baseballs Enhance Pitching Velocity, and Harm Charges


Weighted ball coaching packages have turn into a highly regarded software for baseball gamers seeking to enhance their pitching velocity.

Sadly, the recognition of weighted baseball coaching has grown sooner than our understanding of the science behind them.

During the last a number of years, Lenny Macrina and I at Champion PT and Efficiency have teamed up with Dr. Glenn Fleisig and Dr. James Andrews at the American Sports activities Drugs Insitute to attempt to study extra in regards to the security and efficacy of weighted baseballs.

Over a sequence of analysis tasks, we’ve discovered loads over the previous few years. However, there are nonetheless many questions associated to the protection, mechanism, and efficacy of weighted ball utilization in baseball. 

I’m actually proud to say, that we’re beginning to see a shift within the utilization of weighted ball packages as coaches study from our analysis.

We’ve discovered that throwing weighted baseballs modifications the stress concerned on the arm

Dr. Fleisig examined the biomechanical impact of throwing weighted baseballs in a gaggle of highschool and school pitchers. 

The authors famous a big improve in elbow varus torque (stress on the Tommy John ligament) when throwing weighted balls on flat floor with the run-and-gun approach in comparison with throwing off a mound. 

Okoroha confirmed the same improve in elbow varus torque in a gaggle of youth baseball pitchers throwing flat floor.  They documented a statistically vital improve in stress as the load of the ball elevated.

We’ve discovered that harm charges are increased in baseball pitchers that carry out a weighted ball program

Our research was the primary to look at harm charges throughout and following a weighted ball throwing program.  

Whereas we did present a 3.3% acquire in pitching velocity, we additionally confirmed a 24% harm price in highschool baseball pitchers who carried out a 6-week weighted ball program.  There have been no accidents within the management group that didn’t carry out weighted ball coaching and solely centered on regular weight coaching.

And whereas we did present that velocity elevated, it wasn’t in all of the pitchers, and 67% of the management group additionally confirmed a rise in velocity simply by performing fundamental throwing and weight coaching.

So, hold that in thoughts. The rise in velocity is probably going overstated with examples from one finish of a bell curve turning into popularized on the web.

It’s necessary to notice that we adopted our gamers for the season after performing an offseason weighted ball program. We see way more accidents within the season after than whereas really performing the weighted ball program.

We additionally suppose we’ve discovered why we see each velocity positive aspects and better harm charges

Extra importantly, I actually consider that we discovered loads in regards to the mechanism of each the rise in velocity, in addition to stress and harm charges, from weighted balls. I’ve tried to summarize this in some articles on the science of weighted baseball coaching packages.

We had been stunned to look at a big acquire in shoulder exterior rotation vary of movement (or layback). 

Pitchers in this system confirmed a big acquire of 4.3 levels of shoulder exterior rotation after the 6-week program.  The management group didn’t present this transformation.  And we all know from a number of earlier research that the quantity of layback is correlated to each elevated stress and velocity in baseball pitchers.

Weighted baseball coaching packages could also be efficient at growing pitching velocity, however in addition they improve shoulder movement, stress on the elbow, and harm charges

After we discovered that exterior rotation of the shoulder elevated after performing a 6-week weighted ball program, our first thought was that we wanted to review the instant modifications after throwing weighted balls to see if this was one thing that works straight away or wants weeks of coaching to look at.

This leads us to our newest research.

In our newest research that was revealed in Sports activities Well being, we needed to see what occurs to shoulder vary of movement instantly after throwing weighted balls.

To check this, we checked out a gaggle of 16 highschool baseball pitchers with a imply age of 17 years previous. We measured their shoulder vary of movement earlier than and after a weighed baseball coaching session to evaluate what modifications occurred on that someday.

As a result of there are numerous totally different weights of baseballs used within the frequent coaching packages, we additionally needed to see if there was a distinction between the weights of balls used. So we broke the research into 3 totally different take a look at periods.

The pitchers got here to our facility on 3 separate days to carry out the three totally different coaching periods:

  • Underweight baseballs utilizing 2oz, 4oz, and 5oz balls
  • Obese baseballs utilizing 5oz, 6oz and 9oz balls
  • Excessive chubby baseballs utilizing 5oz, 16oz and 32oz balls

Every pitcher threw 3 throws with every ball in 3 totally different positions:

  • Kneeling throws
  • Rocker throws
  • Run and gun throws
weighted baseball velocity program

So, in whole, every testing session threw 3 throws from 3 positions with 3 totally different ball weights for a complete of 27 throws. That’s not loads for one session. Folks usually do much more than that in actuality.

Instantly after every throwing session, we measured their shoulder vary of movement once more. After simply this small period of time and throws, we didn’t anticipate finding many variations within the vary of movement.

This proved right once we checked out gamers after throwing underload balls. There was no change in vary of movement. This serves as a superb baseline for the remainder of the findings, the one variable we modified within the different periods was the load of the balls, so any modifications we discover could be attributed to the weighted balls themselves.

As the load of the balls began to extend, so did our findings. With the overload balls of 6oz and 9oz, we began to see a change in shoulder exterior rotation vary of movement or layback. As the load of the balls elevated, so did the quantity of exterior rotation gained from throwing. With the overload balls, exterior rotation elevated by over 3 levels, however with the intense overload balls of 16oz and 32oz we noticed an alarming improve of over 8 levels:

Acute effect of weighted baseballs on shoulder range of motion

I can’t stress sufficient how necessary that discovering was on this research. Lenny and I actually checked out one another whereas we had been measuring the vary of movement and had been shocked.

One factor to remember with any analysis research is that these values are the averages of the teams. Whenever you break down the numbers per particular person within the research, the outcomes are much more useful. Realistically, the extent of depth of the throws might alter the outcomes. If a selected pitcher doesn’t throw with a variety of depth, it may skew the information. This might occur with those who aren’t used to throwing weighted balls.

For the overload session of 6oz and 9oz balls, you possibly can see that some gamers’ vary of movement didn’t change a lot, however a pattern towards this improve. For people who did improve, there have been many who elevated greater than 5, 10, and even 15 levels of exterior rotation, with a median of over 8 levels:

weighted baseball training increases range of motion

So though the three.3 levels imply change within the exterior rotation was statistically vital, it might be much more clinically related than even this research suggests. I personally take into account this 3.3 diploma change to be the baseline, with many gamers growing greater than that.

Whenever you have a look at the intense overload session of 16oz and 32oz throws, the outcomes are much more revealing. The massive majority of topics went up, and went up by loads:

The effect of weighted baseball training

So once more, whereas the imply of 8.8 levels was statistically vital, the scientific implications are even increased, the vast majority of gamers elevated exterior rotation by 10-20 levels.

This discovering is alarming and one thing that everybody wants to grasp should you use or advocate utilizing weighted balls to develop pitching velocity.

Throwing with weighted baseballs will increase your exterior rotation quickly by loads. The heavier the ball, the extra the vary of movement will increase.

However… However… However…

As with my previous analysis, many individuals have learn our findings and haven’t been proud of the outcomes. Maybe the outcomes problem their bias and previous beliefs? Or possibly they simply don’t wish to know the science.

So many individuals have tried to criticize our strategies.

Keep in mind, we’ve got no bias. We’re the scientific folks making an attempt to review these weighted ball packages. We don’t revenue off them (till you get injured!). We simply wish to know the science, we actually haven’t any choice as to what the information says. I’m as stunned as you might be with the outcomes.

I wish to tackle the frequent issues we hear about our research:

  1. We included run and weapons with a 2lb ball. Sadly, that is taking place in the actual world. Children are doing this. I’m glad that some folks suppose it is a little loopy, I kinda do too, however the purpose of our research is to evaluate the spectrum of packages which might be on the market in the actual world. However please hold this in thoughts… there have been solely 3 throws with a 2lb run and gun. That’s not a giant deal. That’s 3 throws out of 81, or lower than 4% of the research. Let’s not throw out the opposite 96% of the research.
  2. Gamers weren’t ready for a weighted ball program. This isn’t true. All gamers in our research had been adequately ready by performing a baseball-specific coaching program and a several-week ramp-up throwing program prior to those research.
  3. Gamers weren’t accustomed to weighted ball packages. This can be true for a number of the topics, however not all. However once more, we needed to simulate the actual world. It’s a must to begin coaching with weighted balls sooner or later once you first begin a program.

I sincerely don’t consider any of those components are very related and positively don’t restrict the scientific worth of our findings.

Why Does Exterior Rotation Enhance?

shoulder external rotation ROM layback

I’ll begin this part off fairly clearly: We don’t actually know.

However, we’ve got some very believable educated guesses primarily based on our scientific proof.

To be trustworthy, I used to be personally very stunned to see that exterior rotation will increase from weighted balls. However now that we all know this, it completely is sensible.

However why?

There are seemingly two explanation why exterior rotation will increase after throwing weighted balls:

  1. Acute modifications to the neuromuscular system
  2. Persistent cumulative injury to the musculoskeletal system

Weighted Balls Trigger Acute Adjustments to the Neuromuscular System

The speedy acquire in exterior rotation was shocking. I don’t suppose this usually represents vital trauma to the shoulder, like tearing the capsule or muscle mass (extra on that under…).

What’s more than likely taking place is that we’re desensitizing the proprioceptors, the Golgi tendon organs (or GTOs), which might be designed to detect stretching and hearth our muscle mass to guard from overstretching.

These GTOs detect when our joints are attending to the tip of their vary of movement and set off the opposing muscle mass to decelerate the motion to guard themselves.

Desensitizing this mechanism can result in improve mobility, however at what price?

It is a protection mechanism inside our our bodies. With out it, our throwing shoulder and elbow are prone to extra stress.

Within the bodily remedy and coaching worlds, we really use this to our benefit at occasions. Plyometric workout routines, dynamic stretching, and strategies like contract-relax all work on this premise.

Whenever you stretch your hamstrings and really feel looser instantly after, it’s not as a result of your hamstrings bought longer after just a few seconds of stretching. That structurally doesn’t make sense. It’s since you’ve desensitized the stretch reflex of the hamstrings.

That is normally not a giant deal, however if you end up doing it to push the extremes of your physiology after which pitch on it, it turns into extra vital. Pitching already places a ridiculous quantity of stress in your arm.

Weighted Balls Trigger Persistent Cumulative Harm to the Musculoskeletal System

Fortunately, I believe the first purpose why we’re seeing the change in exterior rotation is from the acute desensitization of the proprioceptors we simply mentioned.

Nevertheless, it might be short-sighted to additionally not take into account some persistent injury, particularly if pitching with this elevated exterior rotation.

In the course of the pitch, the arm quickly transitions from exterior rotation to inner rotation to begin accelerating the ball. This locations super stress on the static and dynamic stabilizers of the shoulder.

baseball pitching biomechanics - max external rotation layback

Statically, this could injury the anterior capsule of the shoulder. You don’t need this.

Dynamically, we’re seeing injury to the muscle mass that have to eccentrically decelerate the layback and transition to arm acceleration. These muscle mass embody the latissiumus dorsi, teres main, pectoralis, and subscapularis muscle mass.

Have you ever observed how frequent lat strains are in baseball now? We not often noticed this 10-20 years in the past.

The acute modifications are seemingly additionally resulting in persistent cumulative modifications.

So What Does All This Imply?

So now that you realize far more than you in all probability ever needed to find out about shoulder exterior rotation, let me clarify why this issues.

Fairly merely, we all know that the extra exterior rotation you’ve got the extra velocity you’ve got. We additionally know this will increase the stress in your shoulder and elbow.

That is the half that seems like rocket science however is definitely frequent sense. It’s physics. Extra layback permits the arm to throw tougher, which places extra stress on the arm.

Duh, proper? Is smart now, proper?

Many of the proposed theories on why weighted balls helped improve pitching velocity are seemingly not true. The acquire in layback is the first purpose, little doubt in my thoughts.

Weight ball packages don’t improve arm pace, don’t improve arm power (in truth we confirmed they inhibit power improvement), and don’t do any of the opposite issues which were proposed. We’ve got now formally studied this all and concluded this with our analysis.

Weighted balls improve layback, which will increase velocity, which each improve stress, which all improve harm charges.

Once more, makes good sense now, proper?

Do We Even Want Weighted Ball Coaching Packages?

OK, I get it, you continue to wish to use weighted balls. They appear magical on the web.

I’m fully nice with that. I take advantage of them myself with lots of the gamers we work with, however not all of them.

As we proceed to study extra, I believe we understand that weighted balls have a really small place in our velocity improvement packages for the best particular person on the proper time.

They shouldn’t be carried out blindly on a giant group of individuals like we’re seeing being applied for youth, highschool, and school groups throughout the nation.

That is foolish.

As with all the pieces else in life, it’s all in regards to the dosage. Ever hear the phrase “there’s an excessive amount of of a superb factor?”

We’re actually overdosing on weighted balls.

However I’m going to finish this text with a query… will we even want weighted ball coaching packages?

I’m not speaking about substituting weighted ball coaching with lots of the issues which were confirmed to boost velocity with out inflicting accidents, like power coaching, energy improvement, arm care, and correct biomechanics. I’m speaking about will we must be doing these elaborate weighted ball coaching packages all offseason.

Primarily based on this present research, if layback vary of movement will increase a lot so rapidly, and extra layback means extra velocity then possibly all we want is a fast and easy warm-up with a weighted ball.

This might give a small stimulus to desensitize your proprioceptors sufficient to permit just a little extra layback and just a little extra velocity, with out having the put the physique by weeks of a weighted ball coaching program.

This sounds loads safer on the physique to me.

This additionally seems like a possible subsequent research for somebody to carry out…

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