The purpose of this study was to determine whether stride length and knee angle of the leading leg at foot contact, at the instant of maximal external rotation of the shoulder, and at ball release are associated with ball speed in elite youth baseball pitchers. In this study, fifty-two elite youth baseball pitchers (mean age 15.2 SD (standard deviation) 1.7 years) pitched ten fastballs. Data were collected with three high-speed video cameras at a frequency of 240 Hz. Stride length and knee angle of the leading leg were calculated at foot contact, maximal external rotation, and ball release. The associations between these kinematic variables and ball speed were separately determined using generalized estimating equations. Stride length as percentage of body height and knee angle at foot contact were not significantly associated with ball speed. However, knee angles at maximal external rotation and ball release were significantly associated with ball speed. Ball speed increased by 0.45 m/s (1 mph) with an increase in knee extension of 18 degrees at maximal external rotation and 19.5 degrees at ball release. In conclusion, more knee extension of the leading leg at maximal external rotation and ball release is associated with higher ball speeds in elite youth baseball pitchers.
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