By: Deborah Fischi, MSEd, ATC, VATL
As summer has finally arrived, and our athletes have taken to the baseball fields, it’s very important for parents and coaches to keep track of our young pitchers’ arms. Every kid growing up playing baseball wants to be a pitcher and while some are better at it than others, it’s important not to overdo it. This should be taught at an early age as to try to avoid many of the overuse injuries that occur.
Since the growth of the young athlete’s bones, muscles and connective tissue doesn’t usually fully develop until at least age 16, it is imperative that the athlete does not overdo it early on. Overuse injuries can develop in the young athlete at any age and can affect the child’s arm for a long, long time. This is why it is important that the parents and the coaches limit the number of pitches these young athletes can pitch while allowing for plenty of rest time between outings. Making sure the athlete has the proper technique while developing their strength and mechanics is a crucial part in this process of avoiding overuse injuries.
Make sure each athlete has properly warmed up before throwing a pitch. This includes stretching, running, soft toss and making sure the arm is properly warmed-up before pitching begins. The tossing should increase gradually in distance and intensity.
Age Appropriate Skills
The young athlete should focus on proper mechanics of the pitch; not on speed and throwing curveballs. The control with which the athlete throws the ball is much more important than the speed and should be emphasized by the coach.
It is extremely important for any young pitcher to adhere to the pitch count guidelines set up by Little League Baseball. Maintaining the health of the young athletes arm will go a long way in helping to prevent injuries down the road and sticking to the pitch count is an important part of this process.
Making sure the athlete has plenty of rest between outings is very important. The player can still play baseball on the field, just not as a pitcher. It is also important to note that if this young athlete is also a catcher, the times they catch as well as pitch needs to be limited to give the arm the proper rest it needs.
One of the most important aspects of trying to limit young athlete’s injuries is proper and open communication between the athlete, parents and coaches. It is never okay to play through the pain. The athlete must let you know if they are hurt. Letting them know that it is better for them to be honest about their injury so they can get the proper rest and treatment instead of trying to play through it which may cause further damage and result in more time having to rest and treat their injury.
Keeping all these guidelines in mind, baseball is America’s pastime and keeping the youth of today healthy and strong will make for a much longer and more successful career in the long run. It is our job as parents to help keep our athletes as healthy as possible so they are able to play for as long as their hearts desire.
Dr. Michael Freehill, assistant professor of Orthopedics at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center as posted in the US World News & Health; 2013.