Mike Sonne wrote his Ph.D. thesis on muscle fatigue prediction and has studied workplace ergonomics extensively. Among his other projects was consulting on the design of assembly lines at Ford Motor Company and devising the appropriate number of rest breaks to prevent injuries.
When interest in a baseball pitch clock heightened in 2015, Sonne and co-author Peter Keir researched its effect through a series of computer simulations. They concluded, “This study has shown the implementation of pitch clocks, or enforcement of existing pace of play rules, will increase the fatigue accumulated in the forearm and elbow musculature and could jeopardize joint stability.”
That finding was published in the Journal of Sports Sciences in 2016
, but Sonne says now that the premise is rather intuitive, too.
“It doesn't require any machine learning or anything like that,” says Sonne, now the chief scientific officer of 3MotionAI, maker of ProPlayAI
. “You just think about, if you go to the gym and you do 10 reps and you shorten the time between the 10 reps, it's a lot more tiring by the end of it.”
Later that year, a research group in Taiwan conducted a similar study but experimented with college pitchers instead of computer simulations. The study was admittedly small—only seven pitchers completed all three phases—but gave empirical, physiological evidence to the effects of pitch clocks. Each pitcher was evaluated for pitching performance (velocity and location) and muscle inflammation and damage (via blood biomarkers) when throwing pitches every 8, 12 and 20 seconds for seven innings.