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Arthrosc Sports Med Rehabil


Purpose: To determine whether elbow torque was associated with anatomic adaptations of the medial elbow following a season of competitive pitching.

Methods: Pitchers from 3 collegiate baseball teams were recruited during the preseason for participation. Before the season, pitchers were recorded throwing 5 "game-speed" fastball pitches from a standard distance off a mound while wearing a wearable sensor baseball compression sleeve that calculates elbow torque, arm speed, arm slot, and arm rotation. Participants subsequently underwent dynamic ultrasound imaging of the medial elbow, including measurements of the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) and ulnohumeral joint space to assess elbow laxity. Following a full season of competitive pitching, all testing was repeated, and statistical analysis comparing preseason to postseason sonographic findings was performed.

Results: Twenty-eight collegiate pitchers underwent preseason sonographic and kinematic testing. Nineteen pitchers were available for postseason testing. The average age (standard deviation) and playing experience was 19.9 (1.2) and 14.7 (1.5) years. Compared with preseason, there were significant increases in postseason UCL thickness (1.92 ± 0.09 vs 1.56 ± 0.09 mm, P < .01) and elbow laxity (1.77 ± 0.23 vs 1.15 ± 0.22 mm, P = .028) after a season of pitching. No significant changes in pitching kinematic measurements were observed between preseason and postseason testing. Preseason pitching kinematic measurements were significantly associated with increased UCL thickness (arm slot: beta estimate -0.03 ± 0.01, P = .011) and reduction in elbow laxity (elbow torque: beta estimate -0.03 ± 0.01, P = .04) after a season of pitching. Pitchers with increased body weight and arm length demonstrated reduced medial elbow torque during pitching (P < .05).

Conclusions: After a season of competitive pitching, adaptive changes of the medial elbow were demonstrated on dynamic ultrasound. However, the influence of pitching kinematic measurements on these adaptations are of small magnitude and unknown clinical significance. Although wearable sensor technology may have value in trending individual pitcher kinematics, no discrete threshold appears to predict the development of adaptive changes at the elbow.

Level of Evidence: Level II, prospective observational study.

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