If you drive by any park across the country, you will probably see athletes throwing a baseball around.
It’s a sport more and more young athletes are playing year-round, and that means it comes with its share of injuries.
According to two recent studies, young baseball players feel pressure from parents or coaches to play despite arm pain. Additionally, most pitchers’ parents are unaware that safe pitching guidelines exist.
“When these young athletes pitch too many games a week and throw too many pitches during a game, or play in multiple leagues, it’s going to cause overuse injuries,” said Dr. Shelden Martin with OrthoArizona. “I see a lot of these patients in my office between ages 10 to 18 because they’re overusing their arms, causing shoulder and elbow pain.
“They’re not allowing enough time for their body to rest and recover,” Martin continued.
Rest is one of the best things a young athlete can do when they feel pain.
“By playing through pain, these athletes are causing further injury, typically to the cartilage growth plates in the shoulder and elbow. At some point, if they continue to play through that pain and just keep pushing it to the point where they can’t throw, they can cause serious injury.
Martin went on to say, “Although these athletes rarely require surgery, their recovery period can be prolonged by playing through pain and not seeking medical intervention.”
“What is especially helpful for baseball pitchers while recovering from injury is getting them into sports performance therapy to focus on their pitching mechanics, core training and strengthening” Martin said. “This ensures that they have appropriate throwing form and pitching mechanics which leads to longevity in baseball.”
“If they have poor throwing form and mechanics, they’re not going to last long in baseball,” he continued.
Martin said educating parents and athletes on the guidelines to safe pitching is an important step to decreasing rates of player overuse injuries.
“Dr. James Andrews, founder of American Sports Medicine Institute in Birmingham, Alabama, has been a leader in this area in terms of trying to educate parents, athletes, coaches and trainers about what is safe,” Martin said.
Pitch Smart is a program that has implemented guidelines for safe pitch counts and appropriate rest between outings for youth athletes.
“There are very well defined parameters in terms of how many pitches a pitcher may throw based on the age of the athlete,” Martin said. “The younger they are, the less pitches they should be throwing per outing and the less frequently they should be pitching.”
These guidelines can help put parents at ease.
“The majority of parents want the best for their kids and they want to do the right thing,” Martin said. “Once I see these athletes in my office with the parents and educate both the athlete and the parents, usually the parents even want to error on the side of making their child rest longer than they might need to because they care about them.”
Martin has additional advice for young baseball players.
“The best advice I give to them is to cross train and don’t play the same sport year round,” Martin said. “We see more super specialize athletes now that play only one sport year round, especially in the warm weather states like Florida, California and Arizona.”
“You can play another sport during one season to give your body a break from using the same muscles continuously without rest, thus decreasing the risk of overuse injury.”
“You’re going to have more longevity in a sport with less risk of injury by cross training and playing multiple sports,” Martin continued.
For more information, please contact Dr. Martin at www.orthopedicarizona.com.