Importance of radar gun inclusion during return to throwing rehabilitation following ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction in baseball pitchers: A simulation study. J Shoulder & Elbow Surgery. 29: 587-592, 2020.
Background: Rehabilitation following elbow ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction in baseball pitchers relies on a progression of pitching activities to ensure protection and gradual strengthening of the reconstructed ligament.
Purpose: The purpose of this study was to determine the medial elbow torque associated with pitches at various effort levels and determine whether radar gun assistance improves players’ abilities to accurately match partial-effort pitches with true references based on maximum pitch velocity.
Methods: Thirty-seven healthy high school and collegiate baseball pitchers were included in this study. Participants were excluded if they were injured, recovering from injury, or otherwise not currently pitching at full effort. Pitch parameters were collected using a validated wearable sensor. Participants threw 5 pitches at 50%, 75%, and 100% subjective effort. Pitchers then threw 5 pitches at 50% maximum velocity and 75% maximum velocity, as measured by a radar gun.
Results: Thirty-seven pitchers completed this study. Pitches thrown at 50% and 75% partial effort were significantly faster and generated higher elbow torque than did pitches thrown at 50% and 75% velocity, respectively (P < .001). A 10% decrease in percentage of maximum velocity was associated with a 13% decrease in percentage of maximum elbow torque (B coefficient = 1.3, R2 = 0.81, P < .001).
Conclusion: Pitchers generate higher-than-intended forces when throwing at 50% and 75% effort during a subjective partial-effort throwing protocol. Use of a radar gun to guide partial-effort throwing during throwing rehabilitation programs may protect the reconstructed elbow from excess medial torque.