Yoga: Effects on Throwing Performance, Range of Motion, Strength, and Flexibility in a NCAA Division I Softball Team
Type of DegreeDissertation
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Overhead throwing is a highly dynamic, total-body motion that requires strength, range of motion, flexibility, functional stability, and neuromuscular coordination. Throwing athletes train diligently to improve these measures in order to gain a competitive advantage on the field of play. Practicing yoga has been shown to improve certain physical characteristics, such as strength, range of motion, and flexibility, and has become increasingly popular as a supplementation to training for athletes. However, the effects of athletes practicing yoga on these physical characteristics as related to the functional performance of overhead throwing, particularly during a competitive season, are still unclear. Therefore, the purpose of this research study was to investigate how implementing a 6-week yoga intervention during the fall competitive season of a NCAA Division I softball team affects lower extremity, lumbopelvic-hip complex, and upper extremity kinematics during overhead throwing, shoulder and hip range of motion, and hamstring strength and flexibility. Twenty-six collegiate softball players were assigned to a treatment (n = 13) or control group (n =13) and tested prior to and following a yoga intervention. The intervention consisted of participating in 20-minute yoga sessions three times per week. Results indicated a significant time*group interaction for the stride length measured during overhead throwing. The stride length of participants in the control group significantly decreased from pre- to post-intervention, whereas the treatment group was able to maintain a comparable stride length after six weeks of yoga practice. Two limitations of the current study are worth noting. First, using a collegiate softball team as the participant pool limited the sample size to the amount of players on the current playing roster. Second, all participants underwent strength/conditioning training and team-structured softball practices for the duration of this study. Future research should consider examining the biomechanical and psychophysiological effects of athletes practicing yoga with longer sessions for a longer period of time. Furthermore, supplementing an athlete’s training with a yoga practice that directly targets the functional movements associated with their particular sport or skill and examining the biomechanical effects on athletic performance may be insightful.