Pitching Injuries: 30 Ways Kids Are Destroying Their Arms

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pitching injuries

In recent years, the baseball community has witnessed a concerning surge in Tommy John surgeries and arm injuries among young players. Organizations like Little League are aware of this trend and have introduced measures like the Pitch Smart chart to combat the issue. But what’s driving this increase in pitching injuries? Let’s get into the top reasons youth pitchers are putting their arms at risk.

Top Reasons For Pitching Injuries In Youth Pitchers

  1. Lack of Proper Education – Understanding the risks associated with over-pitching is crucial. Many parents and coaches aren’t fully aware of the dangers, leading to uninformed decisions on the field.
  2. Overuse and Pitching Extensively – The more pitches thrown, the greater the stress on the arm. Pitching more than 100 innings in a year without adequate rest can lead to significant injuries.
  3. Poor Mechanics – Incorrect pitching techniques and shoulder rotational and flexion deficits can strain the arm.
  4. Not Enough RestRest days are essential for muscle recovery and injury prevention.
  5. Ignoring Pain and History of Elbow Pain – Pushing through pain or ignoring a history of elbow pain can turn minor injuries into major ones.
  6. Inadequate Warm-Up – Jumping straight into pitching without a proper warm-up can strain cold muscles.
  7. Lack of Strength Training and Preseason Shoulder Strength – Strength training supports the pitching motion, and deficits in preseason shoulder strength can lead to stress on the arm.
  8. Not Using the Whole Body and High Pitch Velocity – Relying solely on the arm or throwing at high velocities can overburden it.
  9. Throwing Too Hard, Too Young – Pushing young arms to their limit before they’re fully developed.
  10. Not Monitoring Pitch Counts – Adhering to recommended pitch counts can prevent overuse injuries.
  11. Pitching Through Fatigue – A fatigued arm or overtraining is more susceptible to injuries.
  12. Lack of Proper Recovery TechniquesPost-pitching recovery can make a significant difference in injury prevention.
  13. Throwing Breaking Pitches Too Early – Introducing complex pitches before the recommended age.
  14. Not Seeking Expert Advice – Meeting with coaches or professionals can help refine techniques and reduce injury risks.
  15. Playing Year-Round – Without off-season breaks, there’s continuous stress on the arm.
  16. Not Cross-Training – Engaging in other sports can balance muscle development, reducing the strain on the arm.
  17. Ignoring the Importance of Nutrition – Proper nutrition fuels the body, ensuring muscles have what they need to perform and recover.
  18. Not Listening to the Body – Ignoring signs of discomfort or strain.
  19. Rapid Growth Spurts – As kids grow, their pitching mechanics need to adapt. Players in the 9 to 11 age bracket are at a higher risk due to the developmental stage of their bones and muscles.
  20. Not Getting Regular Check-Ups – Routine medical check-ups can catch potential issues before they become major problems.
  21. Ignoring Mental Health – The pressure to perform can lead to overexertion and ignoring physical limits.
  22. Lack of Proper Sleep – Adequate sleep is crucial for muscle recovery and overall health.
  23. Using the Wrong Type of Baseballs – Certain balls can put additional strain on the arm.
  24. Not Adapting to Weather Conditions – Cold weather can stiffen muscles, while extreme heat can lead to dehydration.
  25. Lack of Hydration – Dehydrated muscles are more prone to injuries.
  26. Not Practicing Off-Season Maintenance – Even during off-seasons, regular arm care is essential.
  27. Improper Follow-Through and Elbow and Shoulder Varus Torque – An unnatural follow-through or high levels of elbow and shoulder.
  28. Not Seeking Early InterventionAddressing potential issues early can prevent more severe injuries in the future.
  29. Ignoring the Importance of Flexibility – Regular stretching is key.
  30. Positional Risks (Being a Pitcher or Catcher) – These positions involve repetitive throwing actions, which can increase the risk of arm injuries.

Youth Pitching Injuries – Prevention

The old adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” rings especially true when it comes to youth pitchers. While understanding the risks is crucial, taking proactive steps to prevent injuries is equally, if not more, important. Here’s how young players, coaches, and parents can work together to ensure the health and longevity of a young pitcher’s arm:

1. Regular Strength and Conditioning

Before the season starts, players should engage in a strength and conditioning program tailored for baseball. This not only enhances performance but also fortifies the body against potential injuries. Focus on exercises that strengthen the rotator cuff, deltoids, and core muscles.

2. Proper Warm-Up Routines

Never underestimate the power of a good warm-up. Stretching, light jogging, and resistance band exercises can prepare the muscles for the intense activity of pitching.

3. Mastering the Fundamentals

To begin with, ensure that young pitchers receive proper training on the fundamentals of pitching. This includes grip, stance, and follow-through. As a result, proper technique reduces undue stress on the arm.

4. Monitor and Limit Pitch Counts

Stick to recommended pitch counts based on age and skill level. Remember, it’s not just the number of pitches in a game but also the cumulative count over a week or month that matters.

5. Prioritize Rest and Recovery

After a game or practice, prioritize rest. This means not just refraining from pitching but also allowing the muscles to recover with adequate sleep and nutrition.

6. Stay Hydrated

Muscles function best when they’re well-hydrated. Ensure players drink enough water before, during, and after games.

7. Educate and Communicate

Parents and coaches should be educated about the signs of fatigue and potential injury. Open communication lines so that players feel comfortable expressing any discomfort or pain they might be experiencing.

9. Off-Season Care

Even during off-seasons, players should engage in light exercises to maintain muscle tone and flexibility. This ensures they’re in good shape when the season starts.

10. Stay Informed

As research evolves, so do recommendations for injury prevention. Stay updated with the latest guidelines and best practices in youth baseball.

Insights from the Frontlines of Youth Baseball Injuries

In youth baseball, few voices carry as much weight as those of orthopedic surgeons and physical therapists. These professionals witness firsthand the aftermath of arm injuries, offering invaluable insights into prevention, treatment, and recovery. Here’s what we’ve learned from experts in the field:

The Unseen Dangers of Micro Tears

A family friend’s experience serves as a reminder of the hidden dangers young pitchers face. Their teenage son, an avid pitcher, recently underwent Tommy John surgery. What was shocking was the revelation from the surgeon: the boy’s Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL) had numerous micro tears.

These weren’t fresh injuries. In fact, he had been playing for years with these tears, feeling no pain until a sharp sensation forced him out of a game a few months ago. The lesson? Once the UCL has a tear, it usually won’t heal on its own. A player can pitch for years with these micro tears, feeling perfectly fine until the day they don’t.

Controversy Surrounding Plyo or Heavy Ball Workouts

The same surgeon who treated the teenager cautioned against certain training methods. Specifically, he warned parents and coaches about the potential risks of plyometric or heavy ball workouts. While these exercises might promise improved performance, they can also place undue stress on the arm, exacerbating existing injuries or creating new ones.

The Underrated Importance of Stretching and Forearm Strength

One of the most emphasized pieces of advice from the surgeon, who has worked with major league players, is the importance of stretching and forearm strength. These two elements are crucial in protecting the UCL. Stretching ensures flexibility, reducing the risk of strains, while a strong forearm can better support the intense activity of pitching.

His practical tip? Invest in grip strengtheners. These devices can be used anytime, even during leisure activities like watching TV. It’s a simple yet effective way to build forearm strength over time.

Final Thoughts On Pitching Injuries

In the world of youth baseball, the thrill of the game, the camaraderie of the team, and the dreams of future glory are what drive many young players. However, as we’ve explored, the path to baseball success has many potential pitfalls, especially when it comes to the health of young pitchers. From the physical strains and injuries to the often-overlooked psychological toll, there’s much more at stake than just winning or losing a game.

Indeed, knowledge is power. By first recognizing and then understanding the various ways injuries can manifest and the impacts they can leave behind, parents, coaches, and players can take proactive steps to safeguard against them. Furthermore, it’s not solely about playing better. Rather, it’s about playing smarter, which in turn ensures a longer, healthier, and ultimately more fulfilling baseball journey.

Chris F.

Chris F.

Chris Forbes is the founder and editor of BaseballMode.com, a leading blog in the youth baseball space. As a lifelong baseball player, coach and fan, he decided to team up with his young son to offer advice and share their experiences with the sport they both love. Chris lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children.

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