Seeking the Perfect Pitch

perfect pitchA Montclair State researcher is studying ways to reduce injuries in baseball pitchers without compromising pitch speed or performance on the mound.

Professor Steven Leigh, a biomechanist in the Exercise Science and Physical Education department, is evaluating new throwing motions for pitchers that could minimize the chance of elbow and shoulder injuries. The study is an extension of his past research with javelin throwers, which was supported in part with grants by the International Society of Biomechanics and USA Track and Field, and he hopes to apply his knowledge to the mechanics of pitching. 

Leigh calculates the shoulder and elbow stress caused by throwing and, using computer simulations first and then pitchers, seeks to develop safer throwing motions that reduce this stress. The challenge is that the throwing motions used to achieve the best performance on the field cannot be altered much without consequences to the pitch. “Most of the throwing motion is associated with both injury and performance, so you can’t make big changes without affecting performance,” Leigh says. Rather than change a pitcher’s motion completely, Leigh has found that strength training for all muscles involved in throwing – including those in the lower body – eases the stress on pitchers’ arms. “I have found that throwing with a strong lower body action shows a decrease in shoulder and elbow stress, which means injuries are likely to decrease,” Leigh says.

javalinIn addition to his work with baseball pitchers, Leigh is also working with students and other faculty members to design a new shoulder orthotic that will allow people with shoulder pain or disabilities to do everyday activities like eating, drinking, moving objects, washing and typing.