Overarm Throws with the Nondominant Arm: The Kinematics of Accuracy. Hore, J., S. Watts, D. Tweed and B. Miller. Physiology Department, University of Western Ontario, London, ON, N6A 5C1, Canada.
APStracts 3:0181N, 1996.
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS
1. Overarm throws made with the nondominant arm are usually less accurate than those made with the dominant arm. The objective was to determine the errors in the joint rotations associated with this inaccuracy, and thereby to gain insight into the neural mechanisms that contribute to skill in overarm throwing. 2. Overarm throws from both left and right arms were recorded on different occasions as 6 right- handed subjects sat with a fixed trunk and threw 150 tennis balls at about the same speed at a 6-cm square on a target grid 3 m away. Joint rotations at the shoulder, elbow, wrist and finger, and arm translations, were computed from recordings of arm segment orientations made with the magnetic-field search-coil technique. 3. All subjects threw less accurately in this task with their left (nondominant) arm. For throws made with the left arm the height of ball impact on the target grid was related to hand trajectory length, and to hand orientation in space at ball release, but not to hand trajectory height. 4. Two hypotheses were proposed to explain the decreased ball accuracy in the high-low direction when throwing with the nondominant arm: that it was caused by increased variability in the velocity or timing of onset of rotations at proximal joints (which determine the path of the hand through space) or, increased variability in the velocity or timing of onset of finger extension (which determine the moment of ball release). 5. A prediction of the first hypothesis was that proximal joint rotations should be more variable in throws with the left arm. This was the case for the majority of proximal joint rotations in the 6 subjects when variability was examined in joint space. However, some proximal joint rotations were more variable in the right arm. 6. The first hypothesis was directly tested by determining whether hand angular position in space (which represents the sum of all proximal joint rotations) was related to ball impact height on the target grid, at a fixed translational position in the throw. No relation was found between these variables for throws with the left arm in 4 subjects, while a weak relation was found for 2 subjects. It was concluded that, considering all subjects, the first hypothesis could not explain the results. 7. In contrast, in agreement with the second hypothesis, a strong relation (P<0.001) was found in all subjects between ball impact height on the target grid and time of ball release for throws with the left arm, and with time of onset of finger extension. 8. Across all 6 subjects the timing precision (windows) for 95% of the throws was for ball release: 9.3 ms right arm, 22.5 ms left arm; and for onset of finger extension: 13.7 ms right arm, 26.7 ms left arm. 9. Timing of onset of finger extension was no less accurate than timing of onset of other joint rotations for both left and right arms. However simulations of throws showed that, for the same error in timing, finger extension had twice as large an effect on ball direction as any other joint rotation. Timing errors at the fingers have a greater effect than errors at other joints because finger errors are scaled by the higher angular velocity of the hand in space rather than by the smaller angular velocities of the individual joints. 10. It is concluded that although rotations were in general more variable at both proximal and distal joints of the non-dominant (left) arm, the major cause of its decreased throwing accuracy was increased variability at the distal joints, i.e., in the timing of onset of finger extension. This may be due to a lack of precision in the commands from the right hemisphere to the left fingers in right-handed throwers.

Received 26 January 1996; accepted in final form 6 August 1996.
APS Manuscript Number J5-96.
Article publication pending J. Neurophysiol.
ISSN 1080-4757 Copyright 1996 The American Physiological Society.
Published in APStracts on 19 September 1996