Increased Pitch Velocity Is Associated With Throwing Arm Kinetics, Injury Risk, and Ulnar Collateral Ligament Reconstruction in Adolescent, Collegiate, and Professional Baseball Pitchers: A Qualitative Systematic Review.
To assess the relationship between pitch velocity and throwing arm kinetics, injury, and ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction (UCLr) among high school, collegiate, and professional baseball pitchers./r/nThe Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, PubMed (2008-2019), and OVID/MEDLINE (2008-2019) were queried for articles that reported on pitch velocity predicting throwing arm kinetics, injury, or UCLr. The Methodological Index for Non-randomized Studies checklist was used to evaluate the quality of all included studies. Descriptive statistics with ranges were used to quantify data where appropriate./r/nA total of 24 studies examining 2,896 pitchers, with Level of Evidence II-V were included. Intergroup analysis noted pitch velocity was significantly correlated with elbow varus torque in high school (R = 0.36), collegiate (R = 0.29), and professional (R = 0.076) pitchers. Elbow distraction force was positively associated with ball velocity in interpitcher analyses of high school (R = 0.373), professional (R = 0.175), and mixed-cohort evaluations (R = 0.624). Intragroup analysis demonstrated a strong association between pitch velocity and elbow varus torque (R = 0.922-0.957) and elbow distraction force (R = 0.910) in professional pitchers. Faster ball velocity was positively associated with a history of throwing arm injury (R = 0.194) in nonadult pitchers. In 2 studies evaluating professionals, injured pitchers had faster pitch velocity before injury compared with uninjured controls (P = .014; P = .0354). The need for UCLr was positively correlated with pitch velocity (R = 0.036) in professional pitchers. The consequences of UCLr noted little to no decrease in pitch velocity./r/nProfessional baseball pitchers with faster pitch velocity may be at the greatest risk of elbow injury and subsequent UCLr, potentially through the mechanism of increased distractive forces on the medial elbow complex. When a pitcher ultimately undergoes UCLr, decreases in pitching performance are unlikely, but may occur, which should encourage pitchers to caution against maximizing pitch velocity./r/nLevel IV, systematic review of Level II-IV studies.