Over the years I haven’t been shy about discussing the rise in youth baseball injuries and some of my thoughts regarding how to reduce the amount of pitching injuries. I have written about the reason there are so many youth pitching injuries and presented my tips on reducing youth baseball injuries.
In the past, I have stated that the real reason that the amount of youth throwing injuries is rising is not because they are throwing more curveballs, or pitching with poor mechanics, or performing too aggressive long toss programs, or any of the other proposed claims. They may be involved, but I simplified my response and said that the real reason why there are so many youth baseball injuries is due to abuse.
Notice I didn’t say “overuse,” I said “abuse.”
Are Youth Baseball Injuries from Overuse or Abuse?
There is a big difference between overuse and abuse. Overuse implies that the athlete is simply throwing too much, which is often in fact accurate. To date, there have been excellent studies from the American Sports Medicine Institute that has shown that the primary factors that correlate to injury in youth baseball are related to overuse. (Photo by Edwin Martinez1)
Specifically, the more you pitch, the more you raise your chances of getting hurt. This includes factors such as:
- Pitching competitively for more than 8 months of the year
- Pitching on back-to-back days
- Pitching for more than one game in the same day.
- Pitching for more than one team during the same season
- Pitching and also playing catcher on the same team
To combat this, both Little League Baseball and USA Baseball have provided pitch count rules and guidelines to follow.
Are We Following the Guidelines to Reduce Youth Baseball Injuries?
However, abuse is when our parents and coaches simply neglect the stated pitch count guidelines and youth safety information that has been provided for our youth athletes.
You may recall that I wrote about a study that polled 95 youth baseball coaches regarding youth pitch count rules. The results indicated that 57% of questions regarding the rules were answered incorrectly, essentially stating that the coaches did not understand the rules. 27% of coaches admitted to not following the safety guidelines, however only 53% of coaches felt that other coaches in the league followed the safety guidelines. Furthermore, 19% of coaches reported that they pitched a player while having a sore or fatigued shoulder or elbow.
Keep in mind that these are only the coaches that admitted to not following the rules!
Early results from an AOSSM sponsored study of over 700 pitchers around the country between the ages of 9 and 18 have started to surface. One-third of the pitchers reported having a pitching-related injury in the past 12 months, seven out of 10 reported significant arm tiredness in the past 12 months, and nearly 40 percent reported significant arm pain within the past 12 months.
More importantly, the study was able to quantify the percentage of youth baseball pitchers that were performing activities that have been correlated to increase injury risk:
- 40% pitched in a league without pitch counts or limits
- 13% of pitchers pitched competitively for more than 8 months of the year
- 57% pitched on back-to-back days
- 19% pitched more than one game in the same day.
- Nearly 33% of these pitchers pitched for more than one team during the same season
- 10% also played catcher on the same team
The results of the study demonstrate that quite a large percentage of youth baseball players are putting themselves at risk.
The Key to Reducing Youth Baseball Injuries May Be Awareness
The first step in injury prevention is awareness. We now know several factors that correlate to injury. We now have rules and guidelines that have been designed with this information in mind. We now know the percentage of coaches that understand and are actually following these rules. We now know how many players are putting themselves at risk.
This is a lot of information. Now it is time to start promoting this information and raising awareness. Who is with me and how are you going to help promote this information to help reduce youth baseball injuries?