Find out how youth baseball pitchers can prevent serious injury.
Dr. Keith Meister, Medical Director of Sports Medicine at Medical Center Arlington and Team Physician for the Texas Rangers, will be sharing important tips for parents and athletes here on our blog. Today's post comes from the Medical Mailbag and offers important tips about injury prevention for young pitchers. Don't miss the video below where Dr. Meister shares information about appropriate pitch types for young pitchers, also.
As the pennant race continues in high gear, another little league baseball season is has just been completed culminating with the Little League World Series last month in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. It’s exciting to watch these young athletes compete on the world stage at the highest level of competition. However, I’m also reminded that for many of these youngsters, this effort becomes the peak of their athletic careers. It’s not just sometimes because of a lack of desire to continue on, but also often an inability to do so.
Considering that the best 12-year-old players in the world are competing every year during this event, almost all with the dream of eventually playing in the major leagues, it’s particularly disconcerting that only one individual who has actually pitched in a little league World Series has ever pitched at the major league level. Even more eye-opening is the fact that less than 10% of these pitchers ever compete in that capacity at any level of collegiate baseball.
Aside from mental burnout that pushes youngsters away from the game, there are perhaps four controllable variables of which to be aware to prevent the injuries that prematurely often remove our young talents from the game; pitch counts, pitch types, throwing mechanics and conditioning.
Pitch Counts: This is probably the most controllable and most critical of the four factors. More vigilant guidelines have been set by Little League Baseball with the hope of preventing future arm injuries. However, it is the responsibility of coaches and parents to adhere to these guidelines, which can be found at littleleaguebaseball.org. For parents, we recommend utilizing a basic handheld counter during games. Additionally, we highly recommend players take one season off a year and even participate in a second sport.
Pitch Types: Currently there is no hard evidence that the curveball puts any additional stress on the throwing arm when thrown correctly. However, effective pitching is best accomplished by changing speeds and locating pitches. More effective pitching and habits can be developed with throwing an effective fastball and changeup. It is often difficult for a young athlete to physically throw the same ball of identical size and weight that the adult athlete throws, reproducing optimal mechanics and thereby resulting in no greater risk of injury.
Mechanics: When a ball of any pitch type is thrown correctly, stresses on the throwing arm are significantly lessened. However, these mechanics must be properly taught by properly experienced individuals. Often, not enough diligence is put into the selection of a proper coach who can correctly teach the proper habits and mechanics of pitching to their little league players.
Conditioning: There are certain basic conditioning exercises that are beneficial to all athletes. However, ultimately we don’t train baseball players like football players, and we don’t train pitchers like position players. Proper training regimens should be implemented at a young age and carried out through physical maturity. Not all coaches and facilities have the expertise to do so.
Dr. Keith Meister, Medical Director of Sports Medicine at Medical Center Arlington and Team Physician for the Texas Rangers, discusses appropriate pitch types for youth baseball pitchers.
To learn more about Sports Medicine at Medical Center Arlington, please visit us online. Please call 1-855-868-6262 for a physician referral.
Go where the Rangers go!