Pitching shoulder passive flexibility: torque-angle analysis for external rotation and internal rotation

Jeff T. Wight, Jacksonville University
Mark D. Tillman, Kennesaw State University
Guy B. Grover, Regeneration Technologies, Inc.
John W. Chow, Methodist Rehabilitation Center


In this study, a custom device was developed to analyse the pitching shoulder’s external rotation (ER) and internal rotation (IR) passive flexibility. We analysed three novel measures: the resistance onset angle (ROA = angle where the shoulder begins stretching), rotational stiffness, and torque at the end range of motion (ROM). The purpose was to conduct a bilateral analysis to determine if there are significant differences between the throwing and non-throwing shoulder. Participants were 30 upper level pitchers (13 division I, 17 minor league). During testing, pitchers laid supine on a treatment table and the arm was secured to a rotational wheel with the shoulder abducted 90° and elbow flexed 90°. Dependent t-tests revealed significant (p < 0.01) and relatively extreme bilateral differences for all three variables. The throwing shoulder had: increased ER ROA (9°), decreased IR ROA (5.3°), increased ER stiffness (17%), increased IR stiffness (34%), increased ER torque (21%), and increased IR torque (30%). Secondary correlation analysis was completed to determine if the torque-angle variables were good predictors of the end ROM. Stiffness correlations were weak for ER (r = 0.35, p = 0.048) and IR (r = 0.42, p = 0.017) but ROA correlations were strong for ER (r = 0.85, p < 0.001) and IR (r = 0.86, p < 0.001).