Maia Engelkes, Nicole Bordelon, Jessica Downs-Talmage, Anthony Fava, Billy Lozowski, Adam Nebel, Gretchen Oliver, FACSM. Auburn University, Auburn, AL.

BACKGROUND: A relationship between exit velocity and stride mechanics in slow-pitch softball and amateur baseball athletes has been established. However, a relationship has yet to be investigated in an elite fast-pitch softball population. The purpose of the study was to determine if there is a relationship between stride mechanics and hitting performance (exit velocity) in collegiate softball athletes. METHODS: Sixteen National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I collegiate softball athletes [right-handed (n = 11); 19.4 ± 0.9yrs; 171.0 ± 7.0cm; 72.2 ± 9.4kg] who were active on a team roster and injury free for the past six months participated. Participants performed three maximal effort swings off a stationary tee positioned in the middle of the strike zone. Kinematic data at stride foot contact [stride length (% body height), stride foot angle (°), stride foot position in the z-direction (°), stride knee flexion (°), stride hip flexion (°), pelvis rotation (°), and percent center-of-mass (%COM)] were collected at 240 Hz using an electromagnetic tracking system. 0% indicated the COM was directly over the back leg, whereas 100% indicated the COM was directly over the stride leg. A force plate with a sampling frequency of 1200 Hz was also used to determine stride foot contact. The participant’s stride leg was defined as their lead leg. Exit velocity (mph) was measured with a Rapsodo® 2.0 hitting unit positioned at 4.3 m from the front of home plate, with the highest value for each participant used for the analysis. Simple linear regression analyses were performed to determine if there was a relationship between kinematics at stride foot contact and hitting performance in collegiate softball athletes. RESULTS: The mean exit velocity was 72.4 ± 5.4mph. Regression analyses indicated stride length (R2 = .003), stride foot angle (R2 = .093), stride foot position in the z-direction (R2 = .013), knee flexion (R2 = .002), hip flexion (R2 = .034), pelvis rotation (R2 = .045), and %COM (R2 = .080) were not related to hitting performance in this population of collegiate softball athletes (all model p-values > .288). CONCLUSIONS: A relationship between stride mechanics at foot contact and exit velocity did not exist in this population of collegiate softball athletes; however, measuring kinematic values at stride foot contact is only one way to examine a hitter’s stride. Future softball hitting research should examine other stride parameters such as timing and joint angular velocities.

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