Pitch counts in youth baseball have been a hot-button topic in recent years. And similar rules have been placed on catchers. The recent Pitch Smart Guidelines for 9-12 year olds suggest “Avoid playing catcher while not pitching,” and Little League regulations stipulate that a player cannot pitch if he has caught more than 3 innings in a game. Also, if a child throws 41+ pitches in a game, then he cannot catch in that game, which all makes sense when you think about the arm fatigue.
“Being a catcher and a pitcher will lead to overuse injuries in a player’s arm unless you are smart about when and where your player plays,” said Mike Kuebler, Colonial Baseball Instruction owner and head instructor. “I see this happen quite a bit…especially at the 10-14 year old level.”
Remember, every time a pitcher throws a pitch, the catcher has to turn around and throw it right back. And the distance from the pitcher’s mound to home plate is the same, no matter which direction you are throwing. Now, we know what you are thinking – some of you may even be shouting it at your computer screen. “Throwing a pitch is a lot more stressful than tossing the ball back to the pitcher.” And you aren’t wrong. A pitcher’s arm is under more stress when throwing a fastball or, god forbid, a curve ball than a catcher’s arm is when tossing the ball back to the mound. But the cumulative effect of throwing so much – especially when playing both positions in a single game – can have a toll on a child’s arm. And don’t forget about those throws to second base to try and catch the runner. This seemingly non-stop throwing can greatly increase arm fatigue and the risk of overuse injury.
“These kids are not just throwing year-round, they’re competing year-round and they don’t have any time for recovery,” said Dr. James Andrews. “And nowadays, probably 70 to 80 percent of the pitchers today have been pitching 12 months a year since they were seven, eight or nine years old. And your arm is not made for that.”
Add catching to the mix and you have a recipe for disaster. Just think about the arm fatigue! So, as a parent or coach (or both), do the right thing and limit the stress on a child’s arm.
“If your son is going to pitch and catch, make sure he has plenty of rest between games,” advises Kuebler.
Let’s also not forget that catching can have a big impact on a child’s knees. But that is a topic for another blog…
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