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Concept: Baseball


Hitting a baseball is often described as the most difficult thing to do in sports. A key aptitude of a good hitter is the ability to determine which pitch is coming. This rapid decision requires the batter to make a judgment in a fraction of a second based largely on the trajectory and spin of the ball. When does this decision occur relative to the ball’s trajectory and is it possible to identify neural correlates that represent how the decision evolves over a split second? Using single-trial analysis of electroencephalography (EEG) we address this question within the context of subjects discriminating three types of pitches (fastball, curveball, slider) based on pitch trajectories. We find clear neural signatures of pitch classification and, using signal detection theory, we identify the times of discrimination on a trial-to-trial basis. Based on these neural signatures we estimate neural discrimination distributions as a function of the distance the ball is from the plate. We find all three pitches yield unique distributions, namely the timing of the discriminating neural signatures relative to the position of the ball in its trajectory. For instance, fastballs are discriminated at the earliest points in their trajectory, relative to the two other pitches, which is consistent with the need for some constant time to generate and execute the motor plan for the swing (or inhibition of the swing). We also find incorrect discrimination of a pitch (errors) yields neural sources in Brodmann Area 10, which has been implicated in prospective memory, recall, and task difficulty. In summary, we show that single-trial analysis of EEG yields informative distributions of the relative point in a baseball’s trajectory when the batter makes a decision on which pitch is coming.

Concepts: Discrimination, Baseball, Pitcher, Fastball, Base on balls, Batting average, Curveball, Slider


Laboratory studies have demonstrated that circadian clocks align physiology and behavior to 24-h environmental cycles. Examination of athletic performance has been used to discern the functions of these clocks in humans outside of controlled settings. Here, we examined the effects of jet lag, that is, travel that shifts the alignment of 24-h environmental cycles relative to the endogenous circadian clock, on specific performance metrics in Major League Baseball. Accounting for potential differences in home and away performance, travel direction, and team confounding variables, we observed that jet-lag effects were largely evident after eastward travel with very limited effects after westward travel, consistent with the >24-h period length of the human circadian clock. Surprisingly, we found that jet lag impaired major parameters of home-team offensive performance, for example, slugging percentage, but did not similarly affect away-team offensive performance. On the other hand, jet lag impacted both home and away defensive performance. Remarkably, the vast majority of these effects for both home and away teams could be explained by a single measure, home runs allowed. Rather than uniform effects, these results reveal surprisingly specific effects of circadian misalignment on athletic performance under natural conditions.

Concepts: Circadian rhythm, Period, Baseball, Jet lag, Major League Baseball, National League, Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds


Mental health is a major concern in many countries. We explore whether youth participation in the Scouts and Guides could protect mental health in later life and in particular whether it might reduce inequalities in mental health associated with early life socioeconomic position.

Concepts: Cohort study, Epidemiology, Clinical trial, Sociology, Youth, Baseball, Scout Motto, Scouting


Throwing injuries are common in high school baseball. Known risk factors include excessive pitch counts, year-round pitching, and pitching with arm pain and fatigue. Despite the evidence, the prevalence of pitching injuries among high school players has not decreased. One possibility to explain this pattern is that players accumulate unaccounted pitch volume during warm-up and bullpen activity, but this has not yet been examined.

Concepts: Scientific method, High school, Baseball, Pitcher, Catcher, Relief pitcher, Starting pitcher, Bullpen


Our visual abilities profoundly impact performance on an enormous range of tasks. Numerous studies examine mechanisms that can improve vision [1]. One limitation of published studies is that learning effects often fail to transfer beyond the trained task or to real world conditions. Here we report the results of a novel integrative perceptual learning program that combines multiple perceptual learning approaches: training with a diverse set of stimuli [2], optimized stimulus presentation [3], multisensory facilitation [4], and consistently reinforcing training stimuli [5], with the goal to generalize benefits to real world tasks. We applied this training program to the University of California Riverside (UCR) Baseball Team and assessed benefits using standard eye-charts and batting statistics. Trained players showed improved vision after training, had decreased strike-outs, and created more runs; and even accounting for maturational gains, these additional runs may have led to an additional four to five team wins. These results demonstrate real world transferable benefits of a vision-training program based on perceptual learning principles.

Concepts: Improve, Skill, Training, Task, Baseball, Batting average, Batting


Baseball players must be able to see and react in an instant, yet it is hotly debated whether superior performance is associated with superior sensorimotor abilities. In this study, we compare sensorimotor abilities, measured through 8 psychomotor tasks comprising the Nike Sensory Station assessment battery, and game statistics in a sample of 252 professional baseball players to evaluate the links between sensorimotor skills and on-field performance. For this purpose, we develop a series of Bayesian hierarchical latent variable models enabling us to compare statistics across professional baseball leagues. Within this framework, we find that sensorimotor abilities are significant predictors of on-base percentage, walk rate and strikeout rate, accounting for age, position, and league. We find no such relationship for either slugging percentage or fielder-independent pitching. The pattern of results suggests performance contributions from both visual-sensory and visual-motor abilities and indicates that sensorimotor screenings may be useful for player scouting.

Concepts: Baseball, Baseball statistics, Pitcher, Major League Baseball, Minor league baseball, Batting, Baseball terminology, Barry Bonds


Grunting is pervasive in many athletic contests, and empirical evidence suggests that it may result in one exerting more physical force. It may also distract one’s opponent. That grunts can distract was supported by a study showing that it led to an opponent being slower and more error prone when viewing tennis shots. An alternative explanation was that grunting masks the sound of a ball being hit. The present study provides evidence against this alternative explanation by testing the effect of grunting in a sport-mixed martial arts-where distraction, rather than masking, is the most likely mechanism.

Concepts: Present, Baseball, Distraction, Baseball rules, Fielder's choice, Absent-mindedness



BACKGROUND:Medial ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) reconstruction is a common procedure performed on Major League Baseball (MLB) pitchers in the United States. PURPOSE:To determine (1) the rate of return to pitching (RTP) in the MLB after UCL reconstruction, (2) the RTP rate in either the MLB and minor league combined, (3) performance after RTP, and (4) the difference in the RTP rate and performance between pitchers who underwent UCL reconstruction and matched controls without UCL injuries. STUDY DESIGN:Cohort study; Level of evidence, 3. METHODS:Major League Baseball pitchers with symptomatic medial UCL deficiency who underwent UCL reconstruction were evaluated. All player, elbow, and surgical demographic data were analyzed. Controls matched by age, body mass index, position, handedness, and MLB experience and performance were selected from the MLB during the same years as those undergoing UCL reconstruction. An “index year” was designated for controls, analogous to the UCL reconstruction year in cases. Return to pitching and performance measures in the MLB were compared between cases and controls. Student t tests were performed for analysis of within-group and between-group variables, respectively. RESULTS:A total of 179 pitchers with UCL tears who underwent reconstruction met the inclusion criteria and were analyzed. Of these, 148 pitchers (83%) were able to RTP in the MLB, and 174 pitchers were able to RTP in the MLB and minor league combined (97.2%), while only 5 pitchers (2.8%) were never able to RTP in either the MLB or minor league. Pitchers returned to the MLB at a mean 20.5 ± 9.72 months after UCL reconstruction. The length of career in the MLB after UCL reconstruction was 3.9 ± 2.84 years, although 56 of these patients were still currently actively pitching in the MLB at the start of the 2013 season. The revision rate was 3.9%. In the year before UCL reconstruction, pitching performance declined significantly in the cases versus controls in the number of innings pitched, games played, and wins and the winning percentage (P < .05). After surgery, pitchers showed significantly improved performance versus before surgery (fewer losses, a lower losing percentage, lower earned run average [ERA], threw fewer walks, and allowed fewer hits, runs, and home runs) (P < .05). Comparisons between cases and controls for the time frame after UCL reconstruction (cases) or the index year (controls) demonstrated that cases had significantly (P < .05) fewer losses per season and a lower losing percentage. In addition, cases had a significantly lower ERA and allowed fewer walks and hits per inning pitched. CONCLUSION:There is a high rate of RTP in professional baseball after UCL reconstruction. Performance declined before surgery and improved after surgery. When compared with demographic-matched controls, patients who underwent UCL reconstruction had better results in multiple performance measures. Reconstruction of the UCL allows for a predictable and successful return to the MLB.

Concepts: Baseball, Baseball statistics, Major League Baseball, National League, St. Louis Cardinals, Minor league baseball, Designated hitter, Tommy John surgery


In our daily lives, we use faces as a major source of information about other people. Recent work has begun to highlight how one’s facial width-to-height ratio (fWHR) is linked to a number of behaviours (e.g. deception, aggression and financial performance in firms). fWHR has also been linked to several factors that may be beneficial for sport (e.g. achievement drive, winning mentality and aggression). Despite this, few studies have examined the relationship between fWHR and sports performance, and these have focused on Caucasian sportsmen. Here, we investigated the relationship between fWHR and baseball performance in professional Japanese baseball players. We show that fWHR is positively related with home run performance across two consecutive seasons. The findings provide the first evidence linking fWHR to baseball performance and linking fWHR to behavioural outcomes in Asian participants.

Concepts: Human behavior, Baseball, Sport, Major League Baseball, Minor league baseball, Nippon Professional Baseball, Run, Home run