Major League Baseball pitch velocity and pitch type associated with risk of ulnar collateral ligament injury.

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Journal of shoulder and elbow surgery


BACKGROUND: The number of Major League Baseball (MLB) pitchers requiring ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) reconstructions is increasing. Recent literature has attempted to correlate specific stresses placed on the throwing arm to risk for UCL injury, with limited results.

METHODS: Eighty-three MLB pitchers who underwent primary UCL reconstruction were evaluated. Pitching velocity and percent of pitch type thrown (fastball, curve ball, slider, and change-up) were evaluated 2 years before and after surgery. Data were compared with control pitchers matched for age, position, size, innings pitched, and experience.

RESULTS: The evaluation of pitch velocity compared with matched controls found no differences in pre-UCL reconstruction pitch velocities for fastballs (91.5 vs. 91.2 miles per hour [mph], P = .69), curveballs (78.2 vs. 77.9 mph, P = .92), sliders (83.3 vs. 83.5 mph, P = .88), or change-ups (83.9 vs. 83.8 mph, P = .96). When the percentage of pitches thrown was evaluated, UCL reconstructed pitchers pitch significantly more fastballs than controls (46.7% vs. 39.4%, P = .035). This correlated to a 2% increase in risk for UCL injury for every 1% increase in fastballs thrown. Pitching more than 48% fastballs was a significant predictor of UCL injury, because pitchers over this threshold required reconstruction (P = .006).

CONCLUSION: MLB pitchers requiring UCL reconstruction do not pitch at higher velocities than matched controls, and pitch velocity does not appear to be a risk factor for UCL reconstruction. However, MLB pitchers who pitch a high percentage of fastballs may be at increased risk for UCL injury because pitching a higher percent of fastballs appears to be a risk factor for UCL reconstruction.

Medical Subject Headings

Adult; Athletic Injuries; Baseball; Case-Control Studies; Collateral Ligaments; Elbow Joint; Humans; Male; Risk Factors; Young Adult

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