Keeping Young Pitchers and Catchers Safe

03/22/2016

Healthy Living - March 22, 2016
JP Stowe, ATC
JP-Stowe.jpg
Baseball has been America’s pastime for more than 172 years, and softball has been growing in popularity for quite some time. One of the great things about both sports is that any age can play. Though they are some of the safest sports to play, there are always injury risks associated with baseball and softball that have been on the rise for over the last ten years. Overuse injuries have consistently been a problem for adults but a growing number of teens and pre-teens are starting to develop these issues in an exponential way. Awareness by parents, coaches, and athletes about pitch counts, rest days, and general safe play can go a long way in preventing needless injuries that could end a child’s career before it even starts.
 
Though each position has its risks, the pitcher and catcher positions in both baseball and softball carry the most risk of an overuse injury. The repetitive stress of throwing over time can lead to muscle fatigue and eventually muscle, tendon, and ligament damage around the shoulder girdle, especially in a skeletally immature child. Too much stress on a young body’s joints can lead to very severe injuries including growth plate damage. One easily overlooked player on the field is the catcher. Though they may not throw with the same velocity, they sometimes throw more than a pitcher during a game and compete on consecutive days.
 
Baseball
The pitching and throwing motion is a very unnatural movement for the shoulder and elbow and places so much torsional stress on both body parts. This motion, especially with improper mechanics can lead to decreases in range of motion, stiffness, increased pain and soreness, and an increase in injury risk. Studies have shown that youth baseball pitchers have as high as a 55% chance of experiencing shoulder or elbow pain and soreness, and have also shown that they are 36 times more likely to get injured when pitching with soreness or fatigue.
 
Baseball pitchers should very strictly follow pitch count recommendations set forth by USA Baseball and Little League Baseball. Following these guidelines have greatly shown to decrease injury risks.
 
Age Pitch Count Per day
  17-18 105
13-16 95
11-12 85
 9-10 75
7-8 50
14 & under 15-18 Days of Rest
66+ pitches per day 76+ pitches per day 4
51-65 pitches per day 61-75 pitches per day 3
36-50 pitches per day 46-60 pitches per day 2
21-35 pitches per day 31-45 pitches per day 1
1-20 pitches per day 1-30 pitches per day 0
 *Little League Regular Season Pitching Rules-Baseball*






Softball
The softball pitching motion is much more natural and does not stress the shoulder and elbow nearly as much as pitching a baseball. Softball pitchers also typically pitch on consecutive days because they tend to have greater stamina and less arm fatigue than their counterparts. Softball pitchers are recommended to follow a pitch count with rest days, though not as strictly as baseball pitchers. Girls younger than 12 years old should pitch no more than two consecutive days, and girls older than 13 should pitch no more than three consecutive days.
Age Pitches/day Pitches/Day 1 & 2 Pitches/Day 3
8-10 50 80 0
10-12 65 95 0
13-14 80 115 80
15 & over 100 140 100
 
 
Recommendations for Baseball and Softball Pitchers
  1. Warm up properly by stretching and gradually increasing throwing distance and speed
  2. Concentrate on age appropriate pitching (don’t throw pitches you haven’t learned)
  3. Learn and follow proper mechanics of pitching first and foremost
  4. Avoid pitching on multiple teams with overlapping seasons
  5. Don’t pitch with shoulder or elbow pain or fatigue. Speak with an athletic trainer about any concerns
  6. Don’t use radar guns to add unnecessary stress to the child. Focus on control, accuracy and mechanics
  7. Emphasize strengthening of the core and gluteal muscles
  8. Adhere to pitch count and rest day guidelines
  9. Don’t pitch year round. Take 2-3 months off completely from pitching to allow healing and recovery
 
References:
  1. "Baseball Injury Prevention -OrthoInfo - AAOS." Baseball Injury Prevention -OrthoInfo - AAOS. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2016.
  2. "Baseball and Softball." Pediatrics 129.3 (2012): n. pag. Web.
  3. "Pitch Smart." Major League Baseball. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2016.