Because youth athletes are smaller and weaker than their adult counterparts, smaller equipment and fields are often used in youth sports. Previous research has shown that youth baseball pitchers use similar motions to older pitchers, but generate lower kinetics and angular velocities at the shoulder and elbow. The purpose of this study was to determine potential biomechanical benefits for youth pitchers to use lighter baseballs. Thirty-four youth (11.1 ± 0.7 years) pitchers pitched both standard [5 ounce (142 g)] and lightweight [4 ounce(113 g)] baseballs in a laboratory setting. Kinematic and kinetic parameters were measured with a six-camera high-speed motion analysis system. Three repeated measures MANOVAs were used to compare (p > 0.05) position, velocity, and kinetic parameters between the standard and lightweight baseballs. Subjective data were also collected. Pitching the lightweight ball produced no difference in arm position, but greater shoulder, elbow, and ball velocities. With the lightweight ball, pitchers produced decreased kinetics.Post-hoc analysis of the kinetic data revealed significant decreases in elbow varus torque and shoulder internal rotation torque. The data suggest that playing with lightweight baseballs may reduce the risk of overuse injury in the youth pitcher and also help develop arm speed. However, before introducing lightweight baseballs into the youth game, the effect of lighter, faster pitched balls for the batters and fielders should also be considered.
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Fleisig, G.S., Phillips, R., Shatley, A. et al. Kinematics and kinetics of youth baseball pitching with standard and lightweight balls. Sports Eng 9, 155 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02844117