Weighted baseball training is so new, there isn’t even a lot of data to support its efficacy. But it’s been gaining popularity in recent years. The idea is that using a weighted baseball will eventually serve to increase pitching speeds. And with speeds approaching 100 mph in the Majors, that’s a scary thought.
Especially scary if you’re a catcher.
But facilities offering the program are starting to collect data on their own. While their methodology may not be particularly scientific, it offers at least a window into the potential difference weighted baseball training makes to throwing speed.
Here’s what we know so far about the science of weighted baseball training programs from informal data collection.
At every level of the sport, injuries are rife. From Little League to The Show, Tommy John surgeries are rising. What’s alarming is that younger players are having them and having more than one. Surgical interventions are almost always a bad indicator for athletes, particularly young ones.
In the past the Tommy John surgery has been largely called on by older players. That’s no longer the case and that’s alarming. The growing pressure to spectacularize sports, turning them into increasingly aggressive, gladiatorial events, is the factor most responsible for this unfortunate trend.
As I said earlier, high-velocity pitching is being aggressively pursued, with Major League pitcher Aroldis Chapman spitting a 109-mph pitch over the mound, while flame throwing for the Reds. There’s a huge focus on speed that’s not going anywhere, and weighted baseball training is part of it.
Using both lightweight and heavyweight balls, weighted baseball training posits that velocity is improved via mechanics, arm strength and arm speed. There is no scientific data to support this hypothesis.
While data suggests that velocity may well be enhanced by this style of training program, what concerns me is that nothing is known of the long-term effects of weighted baseball training. How does it impact the continuing integrity of associated muscle, ligament, tendon and bone?
One unpublished study measured program efficacy, in tandem with effects observed in the structures of the elbow and shoulder over a 6-week period.
Using a control group throwing balls of regulation weight, the study’s participants trained with a standard weighted training program, using balls of various weights. The results of the study are quite instructive as they show that, sure – this style of training may work. But at what cost to players?
80% of the weighted throwers increased their velocity, as did 67% of the control group. Physically speaking, there was a marked increase in external shoulder rotation, which may contribute to higher velocity pitches. But this progression was extremely rapid, at 5%.
78% of shoulder injuries happen to players with higher external shoulder rotation.
24% of the weighted training program study participants were injured.
What’s the moral of this story? While some players may experience velocity gains, the need for speed and its casualties point to the underlying rationale for this program being flawed to begin with.
Pitching injury? Contact us.