Now that Baseball season has officially ended, it’s a great time to begin the recovery process. That means REST…from throwing. That does NOT mean ceasing all activity, but rather staying active in fall and winter sports, or participation in general fitness, mobility and strength training programs.
There are nearly 5 million kids playing organized youth baseball in the United States and many of them continue to ignore the guidelines set regarding pitch counts and participation volume. In response, the American Sports Medicine Institute (ASMI) has recently revised their recommendations regarding specific risk-prone pitching activities.
Thus, the recommendations for preventing injuries in youth baseball pitchers are:
- 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.
- 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.
- Do not pitch more than 100 innings in games in any calendar year.
- Follow limits for pitch counts and days rest.
- Avoid pitching on multiple teams with overlapping seasons.
- 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.
- Avoid using radar guns.
- 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.
- If a pitcher complains of pain in his elbow or shoulder, discontinue pitching until evaluated by a sports medicine physician. 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.
Risk-Prone Pitching Activities and Injuries in Youth Baseball: A study from The American Journal of Sports Medicine 2014. A national survey was conducted among 754 youth pitchers (ages 9 to 18 years) who had pitched in organizedbaseball leagues during the 12 months before the survey. The most shocking findings were that, 43.4% reported pitching on consecutive days and 19% pitched multiple games per day.
The ASMI, USA Baseball and other organizations have laid out clear guidelines for youth pitching and baseball participation volume, this study proves that many players, parents and coaches continue to ignore these guidelines. In his book, Any Given Monday, Dr. James Andrews advises that youth athletes should participate in seasonal sports and that specializing increases the risk for overuse injuries. Recently the British Journal of Sports Medicine stated that diversified sports training during early and middle adolescence may be more effective in developing elite-level skills in the primary sport due to skill transfer.
Ultimately, the responsibility belongs to the parents or guardians of youth baseball players to adhere to the guidelines set by the above stated organizations.