There have been many questions regarding the Driveline and Velocity programs in relation to if it adds velocity, should I use it, etc. It is our position not to endorse one versus the other because they each have their merits. There isn’t much published research out there on these programs that weren’t published by the companies themselves but there are a few that were great in leading us towards this position. After consulting professionals in the field of baseball, at the rehabilitation, performance, minor and major league level, we have some thoughts to put forwards.
Weighted ball training can be interpreted two ways. One is the use of medicine balls and the other is throwing weighted baseballs (and similar balls). This focuses on the use of weighted baseballs due to the latest trends. Medicine balls are awesome and should and are used a lot in our practice. Weighted baseballs can be used very well and very poorly. It all depends on the overall loading of the athlete, musculoskeletal maturity, screening for deficiencies, and training age (different than chronological age).
Loading of the athlete is important because the targeted musculature can be overloaded very easily if their weight training is high as well. Eccentric loading of the rotator cuff can be beneficial to the overhead athlete to prevent injury and improve velocity but if it is coupled with heavy overhead lifting, further eccentric training beyond throwing (negatives or rotator cuff overloading), and improper rest periods, this can cause serious injury or at least halt training for some time. You also want to permit proper rest after a long (usually 9 months in teenage and college years) season. Beginning a weighted ball program after the season ends technically means the pitcher is throwing year round. This has already been proven to cause damage and can cost an athlete a contract or scholarship.
Musculoskeletal maturity means don’t overtrain young kids. Don’t start them too early. Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out. Just be smart here. If you don’t know if your kid should do a program with weighted balls, ask a physical therapist or your pediatrician.
Training age gets a little tricky. For example, if you take two 16 year old high school pitchers side by side, they may look very similar but one has trained, lifted, pushed himself for 5 years which gives him a training age of 5 years. This person is ready to start a program with weighted ball training. The other young man, just started pitching this year and never touched a weight in his life. He may be a natural but his training age is 0. This one needs further groundwork before being pushed like this. Some examples are a performance training program targeting his core, scapula, and never skipping leg day.
The overall lesson here? Have the athlete undergo a thorough screen with a movement specialist (ie a Doctor of Physical Therapy) who understands the needs and demands of an overhead athlete. These people cannot be treated the same because they are a special sect of athlete and person with particular demands. They will look different at rest and moving but this doesn’t necessarily mean they are dysfunctional. If you treat this athlete the same, you could end their career before it even takes off. Get screened, find out the faults, fix them, then let him or her do what they do best.
We would like to thank Ron Masri of Total Motion Physical Therapy, Eric Cressey of Cressey Performance, Eric Shoenberg of Momentum Physical Therapy, and various MLB organizations for their thoughts and articles that help progress and improve what we do!