It is no secret. The competitive domain for Little League and youth pitching is growing by the year. We have children specializing in baseball and playing travel and indoor ball year-round. With all this added stress and no time off, it has never been more critical to ensure we’re doing our best to prevent shoulder and arm injuries.
*Aside* The proper long-term solution for preventing these injuries in our youth athletes is not to allow specialization until late high school. Our youth athletes should spend less than six months specializing in any one sport while filling in the rest of the year with cross-training and sports that activate different muscles. If your child is a throwing athlete, enroll them in soccer for the other half of the year. If they are swimmers, sign them up for a running sport. The sport selection isn’t as important as training other movement and motor patterns, so the youth athlete doesn’t develop chronic injuries.
The pitching puts an incredible amount of stress on the inside of the elbow. Injuries can range from little league elbow to ligament rupture (requiring the infamous Tommy John surgery). We’ve compiled a list of recommendations to help youth athletes stay healthy and injury-free.
DO: Warm-up Before Pitching
Begin with a light jog for 3 minutes, followed by stretching and playing catch with the catcher. Finally, throw several warm-up pitches with progressing intensity – fastballs first.
DO: Monitor the Pitch Count
Pitch count has always been the primary determinant of youth elbow damage. Always follow the USA Baseball Medical and Safety Advisory Committee age-specific Pitch Smart® guidelines for pitch limits. These will supply the counts by age per game, week and season. Remember to follow the guidelines for your ACTUAL age instead of the LEAGUE age.
DO: Wear A Jacket Between Innings
Wearing a jacket over the arm is crucial in maintaining tissue temperature and keeping the muscle warm for the next inning. This is especially important during cooler weather.
DO: Train Your Body
It is important to train not only your shoulder but also your entire system, including your core and hip. The arm acts like a catapult, connected to a base (shoulder) that is attached and secured to a foundation (core). Repeatedly firing a catapult that doesn’t have a strong base or foundation will lead to a loss of speed, accuracy, and reliability and increase the risk of injury to the shoulder.
DO: Have An Off-Season
Off seasons are imperative to allow proper recovery of the shoulder and supporting complex. The off-season should ideally be 2-4 months that doesn’t involve throwing.
DON’T: Over-Do It
Do not pitch in consecutive days or multiple games per day. The heating up, cooling down, then re-heating up of the tissues without proper recovery will increase your likelihood of injury.
DON’T: Play Catcher
Do not play as a catcher during the “off days.” The catcher roll itself requires a throw on almost every pitch. Combine this with the periodic throws down the baseline. This type of stress doesn’t allow the shoulder to heal properly.
DON’T: Skip Your Off-Season
Avoid pitching on multiple teams with overlapping seasons. Give your body a chance to reset its movement patterns by joining a non-throwing sport.
DON’T: Push Your Limits
Avoid radar guns or similar devices that challenge you to throw harder consistently. This constant increase in stress may lead to increased rates of injury.
DON’T: Put A Bandaid Over It
Do not use over-the-counter pain medication to continue an otherwise painful activity. Our body has a powerful system of alerts that warn us when an injury may occur. Ignoring this will bring about just that.
If you have any other questions or want to get your shoulder biomechanics looked at, please don’t hesitate to reach our office: 734-427-6333. If you’d like to learn more about finding the right chiropractor near you, check out THIS blog.
If you’d like to have a PDF copy of this information, click HERE to download it.
PitchSmart USA. Guidelines for Youth and Adolescent Pitchers. Accessed 1/3/20 from: https://www.mlb.com/pitch-smart/pitching-guidelines