According to statistics, nearly half of all youth baseball pitchers will injure a shoulder or elbow in a given season. Not major league players, youth pitchers! The American Journal of Sports Medicine has said that the number of Tommy John elbow surgeries has increased substantially in the past decade, with one acclaimed pitching arm surgeon reporting a tenfold increase in the number of youth pitchers seen today versus just ten years ago. Looking at these numbers, it's easy to see that something needs to be done to protect your young pitcher from unnecessary injury.
How to Protect that Pitching Arm
There are several ways in which parents and coaches can mitigate the inherent risks for shoulder or elbow injury. A few suggestions include:
1.Conditioning is key, and should be confirmed prior to any pitcher performing competitively or at full-velocity.
2.All pitchers should complete proper warm up and stretching prior to throwing their first pitch of each game.
3.Year round training can keep the pitcher in good condition for each new season. However, a period of rest should be mandated after a season. The off-season throwing program can be limited and focused on stamina.
4.Engage in an appropriate, supervised weight-training program through which proper flexibility and range of motion in the shoulders and arms is maintained.
New pitches and techniques should be taught at age-appropriate intervals, and always at reduced velocity. For instance, the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine suggests curveball technique teaching for youth pitchers age 12-16.
5.If a pitcher also plays another position, limit the amount of throwing during each practice or drill.
6.Pay attention to hydration during practices and games, as well as appropriate attire for both warm and cool weather temperatures. Injury could occur if the player is either too hot or too cold. Temperature, as well as hydration, are also directly related to fatigue.
7.Avoid the urge to track speed. Radar guns place priority on velocity and may overshadow the benefits of accuracy, control, and proper pitching mechanics.