Youth Baseball Pitchers, Year-round Baseball, and Injuries

Youth-Baseball-Pitchers-Year-round-Baseball-InjuriesA 2013 study of 1,200 young athletes showed those who concentrated on a single sport were 70% to 93% more likely to be injured than those who played multiple sports. Yikes! According to Dr. James Andrews, year-round baseball is the No. 1 risk factor for Tommy John Surgery in youth baseball pitchers.

“These kids are not just throwing year-round, they’re competing year-round and they don’t have any time for recovery,” said Dr. Andrews.

Overhand pitching creates a tremendous amount of force, putting the elbow and shoulder under immense stresses and strains. And when children are involved, because their muscles and connective tissues are not fully developed, overuse of the arm can result in injury.

“Parents may find it difficult to put limits on any activity that a child is good at and enjoys performing,” said Michael T. Freehill, M.D. “But when it comes to pitching, the surest way to ruin a young athlete’s chances of success is to allow him or her to overdo it.”

Additional risk factors for injury include:

  1. Poor mechanics. “And if you overuse with poor mechanics, you’re doomed,” said Dr. Andrews.
  2. Throwing breaking balls too early. “Sports medicine experts have been warning since the 1970s that throwing curveballs at a young age can lead to elbow injury,” according to a study conducted by Dr. Andrews and Glenn S. Fleisig. “The theory is that more stress is exerted about the elbow when throwing a curveball than when throwing a fastball and that the skeletally immature elbow of a youth pitcher cannot withstand the higher stress.”
  3. Playing in multiple leagues. “Year-round baseball is number one. Number two is playing in more than one league at the same time where rules don’t count [presumably innings limits or pitch counts].”

Fortunately, most overuse injuries are preventable:

  1. Youth baseball pitchers should ALWAYS warm up and stretch before pitching.
  2. Concentrate on age-appropriate pitching skills. The curveball can wait. Work on your command first.
  3. Adhere to age-specific pitch counts.
  4. Make sure your child rests between pitching sessions.
  5. Avoid pitching for multiple teams.
  6. NEVER pitch when hurt or fatigued.

“Following these guidelines may force a young pitcher to sit out a few innings or miss a few pitching opportunities during the season,” said Freehill. “However, that’s a small price to pay for keeping our kids healthy and giving them their best shot at success over the long run.”

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Sources:

Young baseball pitchers shouldn’t overdo it

Dr. Andrews: Year-round baseball at young age is top TJ risk factor


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