Spring is here, and that means baseball and plenty of it. Pros, Little Leaguers and youngsters on all types of baseball teams are gearing up for the new season. Though Little Leaguers and other kids don't have access to the careful conditioning methods the pros get, they have something just as good or better — parents.
But only if parents realize how important they are to their young players' safety, especially parents of pitchers.
Over half of parents of young pitchers don't know about safe pitching guidelines, according to a study just presented at the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) 2015 Annual Meeting.
Throwing a baseball is certainly hard on the arm, but there are well-established guidelines that help prevent arm injuries, like sticking to pitch counts and getting proper rest between trips to the mound. It is all about giving young tendons, ligaments and muscles time to recover.Proper warm up exercises, limits on playing time and pitch counts, sufficient rest periods, appropriate ages for learning various types of pitches and not playing on multiple teams in the same season all help prevent young pitchers from getting injured.ADVERTISEMENT
Unfortunately, as the orthopedic surgeons who may end up treating these players are hearing, over half of the parents surveyed for the study had not heard of safe pitching guidelines. Yet nearly two-thirds (63%) could recall their child having upper extremity pain from their pitching and over a third could recall pain severe enough to call for a trip to the doctor.
Young players like to emulate the pros, even though they don't have their muscle or maturity or training. And the pros realized many years ago that pitchers could do themselves a lot of harm by overdoing it.
For most of the twentieth century, the league leader in innings pitched would throw from 300 to 350 innings a year. But no big league pitcher has thrown over 300 innings in a year since 1980. And that's not because Nolan Ryan was stronger than Justin Verlander.
It took youth baseball longer to catch on, but it's been known for a while that proper warm up exercises, limits on playing time and pitch counts, sufficient rest periods, appropriate ages for learning various types of pitches and not playing on multiple teams in the same season all help prevent young pitchers from getting injured.
Unlike the pros, young arms are not yet fully grown or developed. And this puts them at greater risk for injury.
Shoulder, arm and elbow injuries can have lifelong consequences. Nobody wants to see their child in pain. Without taking anything away from coaches, parents need to realize they have an important role to play. By learning more about safe pitching practices and checking that their child is following them, they can prevent shoulder and arm injuries before they happen. Stop Sports Injuries is a good place to start.
The study was presented at the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons Annual Meeting. It has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal.