A lot of young people are involved in sports today and while it’s great to start being active at an early age, injuries have become an epidemic especially in Baseball. More young pitchers experience elbow, shoulder and other common pitching injuries each year. So why are the pitchers more prone to torn ligaments? It’s because they throw too hard and often too much. The Ulnar Collateral Ligament is the primary support of the elbow when pitching so it is the most common area to be torn. And once it’s injured, the rehabilitation process could be painful and take time to heal.
The common risk factors for pitching injuries in young people are the following:
- Starting at a very early age can be a huge factor in pitching. According to a Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society (PBATS) survey, most professional pitchers had proper instruction to throw the curveball at age 14 as opposed to starting at the Little League Level (Ages 10-12) and the slider at age 18 rather than starting at 13-14 years old.
- Not following proper pitching instruction and bad coaching can put young pitchers at risk.
- Having too many pitches in a game is one of the most common reasons for injury in youth players.
- Lack of practice and not enough conditioning affects pitching agility.
- Getting enough rest days or recovery time in between games is another risk factor that can contribute to pitching injuries.
Consulting a Physician is the best option in dealing with elbow and shoulder injuries. Pitching injuries, however, are commonly treated with rest, which means refraining from pitching for a period of time. Usually, ice is used to alleviate the inflammation and soreness of the injury that normally occurs right after. After the rest period, rehabilitation programs can be needed especially if there’s muscle loss. More critical injuries may require surgery to fix it most importantly if it involves the bone and soft tissues (which could cause a deformity when not corrected). A clearance will be given by a health care professional if it’s okay to start playing again.
Prevention will always be better than cure and the good news is most elbow and shoulder injuries can be prevented by doing the following:
- Before playing, make sure to warm up by stretching properly. Doing gradual throws is a good warm up exercise before the actual game.
- Playing using the age-appropriate pitching techniques can prevent unwanted injuries especially with the young athletes.
- Pitch Count Guidelines should be followed strictly.
- Develop pitching skills by practicing and having enough rest. Refrain from pitching with different teams in overlapping seasons.
- If you already experience pain in your shoulder and elbow, stop playing and inform the coach.
- Do not pitch everyday as this could potentially lead to elbow and shoulder injury.
Most Important Thing to Remember: For the young players, waiting until 14 years old to use the curveball could prevent the arm from any future injuries and can lead to better pitching performance.
In addition, there are training programs and devices that allow youth pitchers to practice more frequently while protecting their arm from injury and at the same time learn proper technique that can improve speed and control. LEARN MORE