Passive Range of Motion Characteristics in the Overhead Baseball Pitcher and Their Implications for Rehabilitation
Repetitive overhead throwing motion causes motion adaptations at the glenohumeral joint that cause injury, decrease performance, and affect throwing mechanics. It is essential to define the typical range of motion (ROM) exhibited at the glenohumeral joint in the overhead thrower.
We (1) assessed the glenohumeral joint passive range of motion (PROM) characteristics in professional baseball pitchers; and (2) applied these findings clinically in a treatment program to restore normal PROM and assist in injury prevention.
From 2005 to 2010, we evaluated 369 professional baseball pitchers to assess ROM parameters, including bilateral passive shoulder external rotation (ER) at 45° of abduction, external and internal rotation (IR) at 90° abduction while in the scapular plane, and supine horizontal adduction.
The mean ER was greater for the throwing and nonthrowing shoulders at 45° of abduction, 102° and 98°, respectively. The throwing shoulder ER at 90° of abduction was 132° compared with 127° on the nonthrowing shoulder. Also, the pitcher’s dominant IR PROM was 52° compared with 63° on the nondominant side. We found no statistically significant differences in total rotational motion between the sides.
Although we found side-to-side differences for rotational ROM and horizontal adduction, the total rotational ROM was similar.
The clinician can use these PROM values, assessment techniques, and treatment guidelines to accurately examine and develop a treatment program for the overhead-throwing athlete.
We thank Glenn S. Fleisig, PhD, and his staff at The American Sports Medicine Institute for the statistical analysis. Also, a special thank you to Ron Porterfield, ATC, and the Tampa Bay Rays baseball organization for allowing us access to their players, facilities, and staff during the data collection process.
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