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Driveline’s Pitching Research Homepage

Driveline Articles on Long Toss

Defining Long-Toss

Is Long Toss with Weighted Baseballs Less Stressful on the Arm?

How to Long Toss on a 120-Foot Throwing Program

The Facts Behind Long Toss Training in Baseball

Long Toss Research

Biomechanical Comparison of Baseball Pitching and Long-Toss: Implications for Training and Rehabilitation (Open Access)

Authors: Fleisig, GS; Bolt, B; Fortenbaugh, D; Wilk, KE; Andrews JR

This study compared max-distance (long-toss) throws with flat ground throws on a line and pitching on a mound. Long tosses produced the greatest elbow and shoulder torques compared to flat ground and pitching. There were also changes in kinematics with long-toss throws compared to flat ground and pitching.

Progressive loading of the elbow and shoulder is needed to increase work capacity and velocity. Throwing long tosses does exceed the stress that is seen on a mound. This can be good because we don’t want pitching on a mound to be the most stressful event for a pitcher. We want to progressively push limits in practice so pitchers learn to apply more force in a controlled setting. Long toss is one of the ways this can be achieved.

More research on long toss is needed, ideally under a longer time period with more distances and with more athletes. This study also emphasized that clinicians and trainers should have a closer relationship when working with athletes who are coming back from surgery or injury.
Expand for Vocab

Elbow and Shoulder Torque – Measure of how much force is acting on the elbow and shoulder during rotation of pitching

Kinematics – branch of mechanics that describes the motion of points using math and geometry to figure the velocity or acceleration of various points of the body, in this case of a pitcher

Biomechanical Comparison of the Interval Throwing Program and Baseball Pitching: Upper Extremity Loads in Training and Rehabilitation

A biomechanical comparison of torque measured fastball pitching, variable-effort pitching, and throwing various flatground distances.

Twenty-nine healthy college baseball pitchers threw from flatground at distances of 18, 27, 37, 55 and off a mound. The study measured kinetic values for humeral internal rotational torque (HIRT) and elbow-valgus load (EVL).

The researchers found no statistically significant difference between any of the flatground distance and throwing from the mound. The values were the highest when throwing from the mound at full intent.

This is an interesting finding, considering that even though the values were higher off the mound, they were not significantly different. This suggests that, even at shorter distances and lower velocities, pitchers are experiencing similar biomechanical loads to pitching—even though the common assumption by coaches and players is that flatground throws are less stressful.

Pitchers were also asked to pitch at various intent levels. There were significant differences when asked to throw at 60% effort when compared to 100% effort. However, it was also seen that pitchers are not very good at measuring their own intent levels. At 60% perceived effort, pitchers generated forces of 76% and ball speeds of 84% of maximum effort. This suggests that even though lower-intent mound work is less stressful than pitching at full intent, it isn’t as low as many coaches and players would expect.

These are the two big takeaways: first, flatground throws may be less stressful than pitching on a mound but there is not as large of a difference as many believe. Second, pitchers are not good at adjusting their own intent levels, meaning that even lighter effort throws are being thrown harder than coaches and players intend.

Defining the Long-Toss: A Professional Baseball Epidemiological Study (Open Access)

Authors: Stone, AV; Mannava, S; Patel, A; Marquez-Lara A; Freehill, MT

Researchers in this study analyzed survey data from pitchers, pitching coaches, and athletic trainers of five MLB teams in order to see if there was a common definition of long toss.

Even though long toss is a fairly popular tool among players and coaches, the researchers found that the definition of long toss varied between players, coaches, and trainers by a substantial margin.

When asked specifically what distance classifies as long toss, both pitchers and pitching coaches answered with 177 feet on average, whereas trainers said 155 feet. Among pitching coaches, the 95% confidence-interval ranged from 155 to 200 feet.

When asked if long toss had to be thrown on a line, 36% of respondents said “yes” and 70% said “no.” (They were allowed to vote for both if desired.) Of the respondents who said “yes,” 28% reported that the athletes had to use a crow hop, whereas 60% of the athletes said “no.”

Opinions on the exact definition of long toss are likely varied because autoregulation is a large part of what makes long toss successful. Also, the type of long toss will change depending on daily training goals and whether athletes are in- out of season. So, long toss is designed to be flexible to meet an athlete’s needs. This means that while a shared meaning could be useful, the definition of long toss is going to depend on individual needs.

Relationship of Throwing Arm Mechanics and Interval Throwing Distance in High School Baseball Players

Authors: Dowling, B; Dines, J; Camp, C

International Society of Biomechanics in Sports Long Toss, abstract 2017

Ninety-five high school baseball players threw from flat ground at distances of 9m, 19m, 27m, 37m, and 46m while wearing a motusBASEBALL Sensor*. After warming up, each participant was tested for five throws at each of the measured distance mentioned above. The metrics arm slot, arm speed, maximum shoulder external rotation, and peak elbow varus torque were measured. (We’ve previously explained how to use the motus sleeve.)

There were significant differences between all groups in arm slot, arm speed, and shoulder rotation. There was significant differences in torque in all groups except for the farther two distances of 37m and 46m.

The players were allowed to use crow hops, and the researchers hypothesize that the crow hop was a reason why there was not difference between the 37m and 46m throws. Arm slot also decreased as throwing distance increased. This may have been because of changes in the arm, but it also may have been the result of lateral trunk flexion.

This study is in agreement with other research in that external rotation will increase with throwing distance. Other research has seen that external rotation increased as pitchers increase effort from 50-100%.

*Though the motus sleeve has been validated in a lab, there are still differences between lab measurements. Just like marker can come off a player in a lab and need to be replaced, the sleeve may make small shifts from throw to throw. Along these lines, it’s important to point out that the arm-speed metric of the motus sleeve represents the max rotational velocity of the forearm, which is not the typical measure of arm speed obtained in a lab: internal rotation and elbow extension. Lastly, the motus sensor measures external rotation from the ground, where marker-based labs measure external rotation from the trunk.