Background: Overexertion caused by increased pitch counts can evoke protective biomechanical responses signified by decreased ball velocity, such as reduced throwing arm kinematics and kinetics. Among skilled pitchers, overexertion may not always present ball velocity decrements, because compensatory throwing biomechanics aid in maintaining peak ball velocity although lowering physiologic stress.
Methods: Nineteen pitchers (collegiate and elite high school), randomly crossed over to pitch two simulated games at ±25% of their desired stride length, were recorded by an eight-camera motion capture system (240 Hz) integrated with two piezoelectric force plates (960 Hz) and a professional model radar gun. HR, self-reported exertion scores, blood glucose and lactate, salivary biomarkers, peak linear hand and fastball velocities were examined. Repeated-measures ANOVA as well as independent and pairwise t-tests examined significant differences (P ≤ 0.05).
Results: Shortened strides reduced mean pitching HR by 11.1 bpm (P < 0.001), improved recovery capacity by 5.76% (P = 0.012), and lowered salivary cortisol from baseline (P = 0.001). Physiologic stress elevated with greater strides, because salivary alpha amylase was significantly elevated from baseline (P = 0.011) with no improvements evidenced in pitching HR or recovery capacity. Linear hand and ball velocities remained equivalent between stride conditions.
Conclusion: Stride length can affect physical exertion without disrupting ball velocity, where shortening strides can plausibly respond to competitive exertion in baseball pitchers. Current pitch count standards and radar velocity accounts have not been proven efficacious in predicting exertion in professional and collegiate baseball, where biomechanical compensations arise to maintain ball velocity. In some instances, compensatory adaptations may be pathomechanic where future research identifying injurious movement patterns can advance injury prevention in professional baseball.