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  • Writer's pictureMichael Richards

ASMI Weighted Baseball Study: Well intentioned, yet unfortunately useless.

Michael Richards

ISSA Certified Strength Coach

Owner Elite Athletic Performance LLC

Published Author

16 years of experience training athletes

On December 15, 2016 the American Sports Medicine Institute released a study on the effects of throwing weighted baseballs in Baseball pitchers. They basically had 25 HS and College guys (that had thrown weighted balls before) throw 4oz,5oz,6oz, and 7oz balls from a mound and also in “double crow-hop” throw. They also had them perform “Holds” (basically throwing without letting go of the ball) with 14oz and 32oz balls. They found them semi-pointless. Which was pretty much already well documented.

I want to discuss a few things that bug me about this study.

The first thing that has always stuck out to me is the lack of documentation about what kind of warmup, cool-down and daily maintenance used by the participant athletes. An athlete that picks up weighted baseballs and lets them rip once a week, but never touches a ball the 6 days between that session is going to have muscles in the throwing arm that perceive torque in a more negative manner than the guy that keeps his arm “loose” with a daily throwing, proper cool-down protocol, strengthening, and soft tissue maintenance routine. The same applies to an athlete that does not properly warm up his arm for the activities.

The study cites higher elbow torque in the crow-hop throws and states “these exercises may be beneficial but may also be stressful and risky.” Aside from the above mentioned point, this will sound strange but, why do we always assume stress is a negative thing? I promise not to get too high on my soap box but this is a pretty nice little microcosm for some of the problems we see with our kids these days. We work so hard to remove stress from their lives then condemn them for having a meltdown when an un-avoidable, stressful situation arises.

We are so careful about not letting our pitchers long-toss, we cringe when they take a crow hop and throw a ball and God forbid they throw a ball that is 2 ounces heavier in a crow hop.

Then, we scratch our heads when they go do something that is inherently stressful on their arm, like throw a 5 oz ball as hard as possible in front of an audience.

Why does the audience matter? (please keep in mind this entire blog is simply my thoughts and opinion) Audiences create adrenaline, adrenaline creates new-found power that is incredibly hard to replicate. What does new-found power create? It creates new-found stress. New-found stress, that has not been prepared for if the athlete hasn’t done some type of extreme throwing (in a controlled, well planned environment of course) to compensate for the lack of ability to replicate said adrenaline in a training environment.

Another problem I have with the study (and honestly it is not ASMI’s fault) is how it has been interpreted by people that make money by taking a stance against weighted ball programs. There are literally six words that could be used for this purpose in the entire study (unless you want to deem elbow torque 100% bad, which I absolutely am not). In the “Clinical Relevance” section it states “these exercises may be beneficial but may also be stressful and risky.” I’m sorry but that is not a death sentence to #weightedballprograms unless you just want it to be.

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