Thursday, September 13, 2012

Preventing injuries in youth baseball pitchers

Over the years, physicians have noticed an increase in the number of elbow and shoulder injuries in youth baseball pitchers. 

Arm injuries are often attributed to overuse - playing on multiple baseball teams, throwing too many pitches, or not allowing enough rest between starts. Poor throwing mechanics can lead to arm strain and increase the chance of injury. Also, players who are out of shape, recently came back from a long vacation or have not followed a warmup and throwing routine could also be at risk. 

Young pitchers who throw year round and participate in baseball showcases have a higher rate of arm injuries that required surgery.

It is very important for coaches and parents to help prevent arm injuries in baseball players. The American Sports Medicine Institute developed recommendations to help prevent throwing arm injuries.

Please share this information with players, parents and coaches.

ASMI recommendations for preventing injuries in youth baseball pitchers: 

  1. Watch and respond to signs of fatigue (such as decreased ball velocity, decreased accuracy, upright trunk during pitching, dropped elbow during pitching, or increased time between pitches). If a youth pitcher complains of fatigue or looks fatigued, let him rest from pitching and other throwing.
  2. No overhead throwing of any kind for at least 2-3 months per year (4 months is preferred). No competitive baseball pitching for at least 4 months per year.
  3. Do not pitch more than 100 innings in games in any calendar year.
  4. Follow limits for pitch counts and days rest.  (Example limits are shown in the table below.)
  5. Avoid pitching on multiple teams with overlapping seasons.
  6. Learn good throwing mechanics as soon as possible. The first steps should be to learn, in order: 1) basic throwing, 2) fastball pitching, 3) change-up pitching.
  7. Avoid using radar guns.
  8. A pitcher should not also be a catcher for his team. The pitcher-catcher combination results in many throws and may increase the risk of injury.
  9. If a pitcher complains of pain in his elbow or shoulder, discontinue pitching until evaluated by a sports medicine physician.
  10. Inspire youth pitchers to have fun playing baseball and other sports. Participation and enjoyment of various physical activities will increase the youth's athleticism and interest in sports.

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