It’s Spring again! When you look outside, the robins are back, the thermometer is trending upward, and it’s back to the diamond for one our favorite pastimes, baseball. This leads me to the topic of this blog: the overuse of the young baseball players’ arms.
Kids (or their parents) seem to specialize in sports at younger and younger ages. Many give up the variety of sports to specialize in one at a very young age. Travel baseball teams start as early as 9-10 years old. Some of them are even practicing almost year around. Also, there has been a significant increase in elbow and shoulder injuries in MLB and college pitchers. I believe this is in direct correlation with the number of pitches and types of pitches thrown by these players as they are coming up.
The first factor is the sheer number of pitches thrown. If a player starts at an early age and is talented, he will throw a lot of pitches by his senior year in high school. Let’s face it, the good pitchers are going to throw the majority of the innings. Coaches, player, and parents want to win. But, there are rules in place to look out for kids. The Little League limits 7-8 year olds to 50 pitches per day, 11-12 y.o. to 85 pitches per day and 13-16 y.o. to 95 per day. Their guidelines are well minded but vague. Each player has to be looked at separately. There is a huge difference between a 13 and a 16 y.o. Each child is at a different maturity level, body build, and over all conditioning.
Another factor to take into consideration is the season timeline that they are pitching in. Is it the first game of the year or the last? Even the pitchers in the Majors don’t throw over 100 pitches early in the season. They also have 3-4 months of “off season” to not throw and recover. It is crazy that some young athletes have less recovery time!
The second factor is the type of pitches thrown. I am not a fan of throwing curveballs at a young age. I think it’s much more important to work on pitch location and mechanics. Many young pitchers have poor mechanics, and trying to throw a curveball puts extra unwanted stress on the elbow. Dr. James Andrews (renowned orthopedic surgeon) advises not throwing curveballs before the age of 14.
These are just some general guidelines to go by. All kids are different, and each case should be looked at individually. But, the bottom line is, let’s do our best to keep our young athletes injury-free so they can enjoy the great game of baseball.
And if you or your athlete is struggling with an injury, don't hesitate to give us a call. We are passionate about helping athletes from the Jenison, Hudsonville, Grandville, Allendale, and surrounding areas make full recoveries, and we believe in educating them with techniques and exercises to prevent future injuries. 616-662-0990
Brian Colvin, MPT
Steve Bartz, PT