With warm weather comes baseball and softball spring workouts. We see a lot of players getting ready for both high school and club teams in our practice and there are a few pitfalls I would like to help players avoid.
Pitch Counts Matter!!!! Did everyone hear me? I know you are big and strong and can throw very hard. Pitch counts matter. I know you play softball and it's an underhand mechanism. Pitch counts matter. I know that you played for years and never got hurt so your child will be fine. Pitch counts matter. Both pitch counts and the appropriate amount of rest after a pitching appearance are vital in the prevention of elbow and shoulder injuries in youth throwers. The American Sports Medicine Institute, headed by Dr. James Andrews, has been looking into the effects of pitching on injuries for years. ASMI has made formal pitching recommendations which have been adopted by Little League Baseball. (Figure #1) STOP Sports Injuries is a collaboration of several top organizations including the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, National Athletic Trainers' Association, and the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine. STOP has recommendations for several sports including pitch counts for both baseball and softball. (Figure #2)
What exactly are we trying to prevent in our youth throwers? Injuries including, shoulder labral tears (see my 1/5/16 blog on the labrum) growth plate injuries, and Ulnar collateral ligament injuries (AKA Tommy John) can all occur with overuse and poor mechanics. The growth plate is the growth center in young bones. The growth plate is the site of tendon attachments and is often vulnerable to injury. The repetitive throwing motion can injure growth plates in either the shoulder or the elbow. Awkward arm positions or poor "arm slots" while throwing cause impairment. For this reason it is recommended that a pitcher master mechanics and a fastball before ever learning a curveball. (ASMI)
Proper rest for athletes is essential not only with pitch counts, but also with rest throughout the year. Taking a portion of the year off to relax the arm is imperative to the health the child. Refraining from overhead activity for consecutive months throughout the year is recommended as well as playing additional sports. When it comes down to it, it is logical--resting their arms helps them last longer. It seems simple but in practice it proves to be difficult for many.
The information on this blog is intended for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to be used in place of medical advice. If you have orthopedic issues that need to be addressed please contact your physician.