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Published in the Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine
Pitch velocity has become an increasingly popular metric by which pitchers are graded and compared. Training programs that utilize weighted balls have been effective in increasing velocity but at the cost of an increased injury risk. No studies have evaluated training with lighter baseballs with regard to increasing pitch velocity and the injury risk.
The purpose of this study was to determine whether a training program utilizing lighter baseballs could increase fastball velocity without increasing the injury risk to participants. We hypothesized that a training program with lighter baseballs would increase fastball velocity but not increase the injury risk.
Case series; Level of evidence, 4.
All baseball pitchers who participated in a 15-week program at a single location, with the same coaches, and aimed to improve pitching mechanics and increase velocity were included. The training program was broken down into 3 phases, and each participant went through the same program. Lighter baseballs (3 and 4 oz) and standard baseballs (5 oz) were utilized as part of the training program. Weighted (heavier) balls were not used. Velocity was measured at 4 time points throughout the program with the pitcher throwing 5 fastballs using a standard 5-oz ball at maximum velocity (sessions 3, 10, 17, and 25). Injuries for all players were recorded throughout the entire program.
A total of 44 male pitchers aged 10 to 17 years (mean age, 14.7 ± 1.8 years) completed the training program and were available for analysis. No pitcher sustained a shoulder or elbow injury during the course of the training program. Fastball velocity increased by a mean of 4.8 mph (95% CI, 4.0-5.6 mph) (P < .001). Overall, 43 of 44 players (98%) had an increase in fastball velocity over the course of the program.
A 15-week pitching training program with lighter baseballs significantly improved pitching velocity without causing any injuries, specifically to the shoulder or elbow. Lighter baseballs should be considered as an alternative to weighted baseballs when attempting to increase a pitcher’s velocity.