Dr. David J. Szymanski recently presented three research posters at the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s (NSCA) national conference in New Orleans.
The NSCA is a national organization dedicated to advancing the strength and conditioning and related sport science professions around the world. Szymanski, the Chair of the Department of Kinesiology and Director of Baseball Performance, presented research focused on collegiate athletes in baseball.
Thousands of baseball pitchers suffer from a medial side or inner elbow injury, such as an ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) tear resulting from repeated stress from overhead throwing as well as have elbow and shoulder arm pain throughout their collegiate and professional careers. The research related to this topic provides data-based information about stress tolerance of the UCL, recommendations on how to prevent this injury, and nonsurgical and surgical treatment of an UCL injury.
“One of our research studies evaluated the differences in vertical jump data to forces placed on the medial elbow, demonstrating that those college baseball pitchers that were most powerful while vertical jumping were the ones who had greater fastball velocity and greater forces on the medial elbow,” Szymanski said. “This indicates that these pitchers may have a greater risk of UCL injury because of the greater forces placed on the inner elbow.”
The two other research projects demonstrated the significant relationships between pitchers who throw harder and shoulder internal rotation torque, which are forces on the shoulder while the throwing arm rotates towards the catcher, as well as the relationships between fastball velocity to lean body muscle mass, and lower body power.
“Because of the significant relationships that were identified, this should allow those who train baseball pitchers to become more knowledgeable about how to combat UCL injuries by creating a well-balanced resistance training program that includes specific exercises to address the throwing arm,” Szymanski said.
In addition to being a co-author, Szymanski worked alongside Dr. Mu Qiao, Jessica Szymanski, Vishesh Singh and a graduate student, Myles Fish.
Fish, a graduate student in Kinesiology concentrating in Sports Performance, was the lead author on one of the research posters. His research investigated the relationship between various body composition, strength, and power variables to fastball velocity.
As he completed his studies, Fish was able to work with various pieces of equipment, learned specific testing protocols, ran statistics, wrote the initial abstract, and designed the initial research poster.
“Myles’ experiences as an athletic trainer, graduate student, and researcher helped him get a job in professional baseball as an assistant athletic trainer for the Milwaukee Brewers,” said Szymanksi. “Because of his research experience at Louisiana Tech, he was asked to assist with the Brewers’ baseball performance testing and monitoring during spring training.”
The Department of Kinesiology, as part of the College of Education, has created partnerships to help further the unit’s research on baseball performance. This helps attract undergraduate and graduate students to the academic programs as well as assists with athletic recruiting. Ultimately, this benefits the college as well as Louisiana Tech’s baseball team.
Kinatrax, a company that makes a markerless 3D motion capture system used by all Major League Baseball teams, has recently provided the Department of Kinesiology with an eight-camera 3D system to use for pitching and hitting analyses.
ProPlayAI, a company that has a pitching biomechanical cell phone app, is working with the Department of Kinesiology to provide video analysis of pitcher’s throwing metrics, such as arm speed, stride length, and maximal external rotation of the shoulder. Dr. Ryan Crotin, Vice President of ArmCare.com, is working with Szymanski on all of the most recent baseball studies completed within the department.
ArmCare.com offers an arm dynamometer that quickly evaluates arm strength and fatigue.
“Our research has provided us with national recognition in baseball performance and other sport related fields,” Szymanski said. “It is crucial to the recruitment of future undergraduate and graduate students and contributes to testing, monitoring, and training of our student-athletes.”
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