A very interesting study was recently published by Dr. Glenn Fleisig in the American Journal of Sports Medicine. The study followed 481 youth baseball pitchers ages 9-14 for a ten year duration.
What the study found was that the athletes that pitched more than 100 innings per year were 3.5 times more likely to sustain a serious injury. Those who play catcher on top of pitching are at an even greater risk by doubling, and tripling injury rates. During the 10-year span 5% of the athletes had to quit baseball due to serious injury or surgery.
The study also looked at the curveball which has always been referenced in young pitchers and injuries. The study could not determine whether curveballs were a factor in injuries.
One of the reasons that people believe that the curveball produces more injuries is actually due to the fact that youth pitchers with a curve ball pitch more innings because they ………. possess a curve ball, and many youth baseball players struggle to hit curve balls. So if you’re hard to hit, you’re going to get more innings. It isn’t the curve ball but the number of innings / pitches / games that really produces that damage.
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to abide to limiting the number of innings thrown when kids play baseball year round now. They are on a summer team, school team, 2 different select teams throughout the year, etc. Going by the wayside are kids that play 3 or 4 sports throughout the year. If athletes want to make teams they have to play year round to keep up which is terribly destructive to their overall development.
“It is a tough balancing act for adults to give their young athletes as much opportunity as possible to develop skills and strength without exposing them to increased risk of overuse injury. Based on this study, we recommend that pitchers in high school and younger pitch no more than 100 innings in competition in any calendar year. Some pitchers need to be limited even more, as no pitcher should continue to pitch when fatigued,” said Fleisig.
I recently met a college aged athlete who did nothing but pitch from the age of 7. This athlete had the worst imbalances I have ever seen at any level. When you look up imbalances due to pitching in the dictionary, his picture should be by it. He had every one I can think of. Extreme amounts of humeral retroversion, extremely limited internal rotation, unbelievable scapular dysfunction, shortened lats, limited elbow extension, and the list goes on and on. This is what happens when kids aren’t allowed to develop as an athlete and only do one thing over and over during the prime of their developmental stage.