We recently published a paper in the International Journal of Sports Medicine (Czeck et al., 2019B) on body composition measures in over 128 NCAA Division I collegiate female softball players. In addition to measuring total body composition, we also examined the composition of throwing vs. non-throwing arms in these female collegiate players.  Like baseball players, softball players present a unique population because the sport involves rotational movements. In most cases rotational athletes will have mass asymmetries (e.g., muscle) because of the repetitive one-sided movements (i.e., throwing, hitting).  However, unlike baseball, softball involves two distinct throwing motions. The overhand throw, which is similar to what is used in baseball and the underhand pitching throw, which involves a totally different throwing pattern.  In this blog, we will talk about normative data in female college softball players and summarize the observations from the study. 

Total body composition measures of female collegiate softball players (Table 1).
One unique aspect of this study is that due to the large sample size, we were able to separate our players into pitchers (n=32), catchers (n=13), outfielders (n=39), and infielders (n=44). What we observed was that pitchers were taller and weighed more than outfielders, but there were no differences between pitchers and the other positions. The greater total body weight of the pitchers resulted in more total fat mass and a higher percent body fat compared to the outfielders.  However, there were no differences between pitchers, infielders, and catchers regarding total fat mass and percent body fat. Nor were there differences between outfielders, infielders, and catchers regarding total fat mass or percent body fat. We did not find any significant differences between the different positions in regards to total bone mineral density or visceral adipose tissue. 

Throwing vs. non-throwing arm composition (Table 2).
The one thing that stood out in this study was the differences in body composition observed between throwing and non-throwing arms. One would expect pitchers to have significant differences in the body composition of their throwing and non-throwing arms and as expected we did see that pitchers’ throwing arms demonstrated significantly greater total mass, lean mass, and bone mineral density compared to the non-throwing arm. The other positions (e.g., catchers, outfielders, infielders) also had significant differences in total mass and lean mass in their throwing versus non-throwing arms.


What does it all mean?
So what does it all mean? First of all the data presented in this paper (Czeck et al., 2009B) provides normative data not only for total body composition but also for regional body composition measures as well as visceral adipose tissue.  In the present paper, the position of the female softball player had little effect upon the athletes’ total and regional body composition (the only differences are that pitchers are taller and have more fat mass than outfielders). This is different to what we observed in NCAA Division I male baseball players (Czeck et al., 2009A) where we found significant differences in body composition by position. However, similar to our previous study in baseball players (Czeck et al., 2009A), the sports’ demands contribute to the throwing arm having greater total mass, lean mass, and BMD than the non-throwing arm. For those that want more detailed information found in this paper, please contact the corresponding author Dr. Don Dengel (e-mail: denge001@umn.edu).

Czeck MA, Raymond-Pope CJ, Bosch TA, Bach CW, Oliver JM, Carbuhn A, Stanforth PR, Dengel DR: Total and regional body composition of NCAA division I collegiate baseball athletes. International Journal of Sports Medicine 40(7):447-452, 2019A.

Czeck MA, Raymond-Pope CJ, Stanforth PR, Carbuhn A, Bosch TA, Bach CW, Oliver JM, Dengel DR: Total and regional body composition of NCAA division I collegiate female softball athletes. International Journal of Sports Medicine 40:645-649, 2019B.

About the Author
Donald Dengel, Ph.D., is a Professor in the School of Kinesiology at the University of Minnesota and is a co-founder of Dexalytics. He serves as the Director of the Laboratory of Integrative Human Physiology, which provides clinical vascular, metabolic, exercise and body composition testing for researchers across the University of Minnesota.


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