Key Points: (comments below from Dev Mishra, M.D.)
- This article is written by Mike Reinold, a colleague and friend who happens to be one of our country’s foremost experts on pitching mechanics and pitching injuries
- This article appeared in Reinold’s blog
- Last week we wrote about overuse being the main factor in risk for pitching injury, but here Mike goes one step further and says that lack of education and awareness from coaches (and likely parents) is the cause of the overuse
- Improved awareness of guidelines for safe pitching should lead to a reduction in pitching injuries
To quickly summarize what we have learned about youth pitching injuries, we know that approximately one third of youth baseball pitchers will experience shoulder or elbow pain during a season. We also know that youth pitching injuries increased sixfold in the early 2000’s with Dr. James Andrews at his center in Alabama. This number is probably even higher now.
After years of speculation regarding exactly why these injuries occur. There is only one factor that continuously correlates to these pitching injuries. I’ve discussed the Little League curveball debate in the past. It isn’t throwing a curveball, it isn’t pitching at an early age, and it isn’t long tossing. The reason is simple:
Youth pitching injuries are due to overuse
But I think we are being polite be saying “overuse.” I would imagine we can even say “abuse” or maybe even “neglect.” Let me explain why.
After years of research showing that high pitch counts, pitching too frequently, throwing for multiple teams, pitching in showcases, and pitching while fatigued are significant factors in the rise of your pitching injuries, Little League Baseball and USA Baseball did the right thing. They consulted with many experts in the field of throwing injuries, including James Andrews, Glenn Fleisig, and the experts at the American Sports Medicine Institute, to develop pitch count rules to protect our youth from this overuse.
Kudos to them for stepping up and doing the right thing. But here is the problem….
A recent study published in Sports Health surveyed 95 youth baseball coaches about their knowledge of the safety guidelines established by the USA Baseball Medical and Safety Advisory Committee. The results are disappointing to say the least.
- Overall, coaches answered 43% of questions correctly
- 27% of coaches admitted to not following the safety guidelines, however only 53% of coaches felt that other coaches in the league followed the safety guidelines
- 19% of coaches reported that they pitching a player while having a sore or fatigued shoulder or elbow
I’m sorry to say this, but…
Not understanding the safety guidelines is irresponsible and intentionally not following them is abuse.
The cause of youth pitching injuries are definitely multifactorial, however, overuse has been shown to be the most influential. Sadly, overuse also seems to be the easiest to address. So what can you do? It probably starts with education. Share this article to help spread that word that overuse needs to end and safety guidelines need to be followed.
You can go back and read my article on Little League pitch count rules. USA Baseball also has some guidelines. To summarize them, in addition to monitoring pitch counts, players should not pitch with pain, should limit their throws from other positions (especially catching), limit their participation in our leagues, limit their participation in showcases, and not progress to more demanding pitches until their bodies start to mature.
All coaches need to be aware of these recommendations. Injury prevention begins with the understanding of how injuries occur and what the specific safety recommendations entail.
The next step is getting on a proper injury prevention program. I’ve discussed some of these topics in my article on preventing Little League pitching injuries and have shared with you my Little League injury prevention exercises that I prepared for MGH several years ago. I probably need to update these but it serves as a good basis to begin. It really is a shame that all these youth pitching injuries are occurring, let’s do our best to spread this education and help reduce these Little League injuries as much as we can!