As a team physician for the St Louis Cardinals during their 2011 World Series Championship season, I learned a lot about the importance of players taking care of themselves firsthand. I would see players preparing themselves both mentally and physically for the game ahead. Kids look up to these players and emulate them. Major League Baseball (MLB) recognizes this and wants their youth players to be healthy and play as safely as possible. This is why MLB took time, energy, and resources, to determine what would be best for today’s young pitchers. Below is a snapshot of what the MLB and the American Sports Medicine Institute (ASMI) found as risk factors for the young pitcher. It’s recommended that these guidelines be followed by coaches, parents, and players.
The MLB Pitch Smart guidelines provide practical, age-appropriate parameters to help parents, players, and coaches avoid overuse injuries and encourage longevity in the careers of young pitchers.
It was found that specific risk factors were seen as creating a higher incidence of injuries. According to the ASMI, youth pitchers that had elbow or shoulder surgery were 36 times more likely to regularly have pitched with arm fatigue. Coaches and parents are encouraged to watch for signs of pitching while fatigued during their game, in the overall season, and during the course of the entire year.
The ASMI also found that players that pitched more than 100 innings over the course of a year were 3.5 times more likely to be injured than those who did not exceed the 100 innings pitched mark. It’s important to note that every inning counts. Games and showcase events should count toward that total number of 100.
Rest is key. Overuse on a daily, weekly, and annual basis is the greatest risk to a young pitcher’s health. Numerous studies have shown that pitchers that throw a greater number of pitches per game, as well as those who don’t get enough rest between outings, are at a greater risk of injury. In fact, in little league baseball, pitch count programs have shown a reduction in shoulder injuries by as much as 50% (Little League, 2011). Setting limits for pitchers throughout the season is vitally important to their health and longevity in the game.
Pitching with injuries to other areas of the body will also affect a player’s biomechanics and change the way he delivers his pitch. An ankle, knee, hip, or spinal injury can cause changes in the biomechanics of how a player throws and will put more stress on his arm. Be cautious with these injuries, because at times the changes in the mechanics of the player can be very subtle; however, they can cause a significant amount of strain on a player’s pitching arm.
For best results for your youth baseball player’s longevity in the sport and keeping a healthy arm for seasons to come follow the MLB’s pitch count and required rest guide below.
Source: Pitch Smart (MLB) – http://m.mlb.com/pitchsmart/risk-factors
Dr. Vidan is a private practice Chiropractor in St. Louis. He is very passionate about helping athletes from peewee’s to pro’s get back on the field after an injury and stay on the field. This allows athletes to enjoy the most out of their sporting experience. Dr. Vidan provided chiropractic care for the St. Louis Cardinals players and staff during the 2011 World Championship season, and continues to enjoy the opportunity to help athletes and organizations at the highest levels.