Youth pitching injury has become a serious dilemma for baseball pitchers.
Did you know that approximately 58% of high school pitchers experience some form of pain in their throwing arms, according to recent reports?
While this may come as a surprise to some, there is significant evidence that indicates youth pitchers are experiencing unprecedented levels of pain or discomfort in their throwing arms.
Baseball pitchers are beginning to throw at younger ages, and they are not taking the necessary precautions to prevent pitching injury.
According to a study about Baseball Injuries by the American Sports Medicine Institute, pitching injuries are the most frequent types of injuries that occur in baseball.
6 causes of youth pitcher injury
There are several things that can lead to pitching injuries in youth baseball pitchers including:
- Failure to properly warm-up or dynamic stretch
- Incorrect or no strength training routine
- Throwing too many pitches per game and per day
- Throwing off-speed pitches incorrectly
- Not having an appropriate recovery system following throwing activities
- Improper or ineffective pitching mechanics
1. Incorrect warm-ups
Every youth athlete, but pitchers especially, must warm-up correctly in order to prevent pitching injury. The correct way to warm-up prior to throwing should be through dynamic stretching, NOT through static stretching. Countless research has concluded that static stretching is ineffective as a warm-up for athletes.
As baseball pitchers, our arm is our lifeline. So you need to treat it the right way. It drives me absolutely crazy when I see ANY baseball player just go out to the left or right field line and immediately start throwing.
Every single baseball player should properly warm up their throwing arms before even looking at a baseball. Dynamic stretching is the absolute best way to warm up the rotator cuff and the muscles surrounding the elbow to prevent pitching injury.
Youth coaches need to implement dynamic stretching for their pitchers to reduce injuries early on, and into the future.
2. Weak bodies
Baseball pitchers from the ages of 7-14 are very unlikely to be strength training at any significant level. As we all know, weightlifting can be pretty dangerous for any young athlete, but strength can be developed in many other ways. Many youth pitching injuries occur because of very weak bodies.
It doesn't matter what age you are or how amazing you think your arm is, a weak body can lead to pitching injury. If you have little strength in your body, then your pitching arm is going to be doing all the work, and putting much more pressure on it.
Younger baseball pitchers must develop a program that focuses on increasing full body strength and balance. Strengthening the core, legs, and rotator cuff muscles should be the primary focus for youth and high school pitchers.
By doing so, you will prevent pitching injuries in the throwing arm, and you will build a foundation for pitching at the higher competitive levels. In addition, pitchers must have strong bodies in order to develop effective pitching mechanics.
3. Kids are throwing too many pitches, too often
I can say that I have some first hand knowledge of this problem that occurs at the lower competitive levels of baseball. For instance, throughout my little league and pony career, coaches were pitching me 80% of the games, and often times on three days or less rest. The best part is that I was throwing 80 or even 100 pitches in some of these games.
If you aren't pitching on live television like the children of the Little League World Series, then you are probably being severely over-pitched by your coaches. I think this issue is much more predominant than most people believe.
Making youth pitchers throw too much, and too often can lead to pitching arm injuries early on, and can have devastating affects on the throwing arm in the future.
It's the coach's responsibility to ensure that his players are taking the necessary precautions to prevent pitching injury. I don't rant often, but this is a reoccurring issue and I have seen it affect many pitchers careers.
Pitch limits are a great regulation that has been set forth, and hopefully it's well enforced to ensure the health of our great pitchers of the future. Baseball pitchers throwing too frequently, and too much can have some serious negative affects on their arms, but so can throwing off-speed pitches too early.
4. Are curveballs dangerous?
There is a continuous debate about this topic in the pitching community. Some believe that youth pitchers should avoid throwing curveballs, while others contend that throwing curveballs can lead to pitching injury. There is conflicting research about the topic, but one thing is for certain.
Pitchers under the age of 14 are still in a serious growing phase of their life, and their pitching arms are not fully developed.
Curveballs become dangerous for youth pitchers when thrown incorrectly. For example, inexperienced pitchers will turn their wrist too far because they are trying to get more movement on the ball. Doing so is not only dangerous for youth pitchers, but pitchers of all ages as well. This motion can be serious strain on the throwing elbow.
Another important thing to remember about throwing curveballs at an early age is that it could negatively impact your chances for succeeding at the higher competitive levels. College teams and MLB teams are interested in fastball velocity and accuracy, and how well you can change speeds. For most advanced pitchers, a curveball is the third option because they understand the importance of a fastball and changeup.
Youth pitchers should be spending their time trying to develop consistency with their fastball, and developing a great changeup before they even consider throwing a curveball.
5. Improper recovery
As I mentioned earlier in the article, static stretching is ineffective as a warmup. However, using static stretching following throwing or exercise is an excellent tool for preventing injury and developing flexibility.
Many youth pitchers, and even more advanced level pitchers fail to properly stretch following throwing or exercise. Holding a stretch for 30-60 seconds can seem not only boring, but it may also be painful. Moreover, pitchers must understand how important it is for preventing injury. Spend 10-15 minutes stretching your rotator cuff, forearm, and the rest of your upper and lower half to ensure that you stay injury free.
6. Incorrect pitching mechanics
Improper pitching mechanics can also lead to youth pitching injury. If you're a pitcher who has ineffective mechanics AND a weak body, then your chances of injury are much higher.
Youth pitchers must develop proper pitching mechanics.
Good pitching mechanics reduce the amount of stress on the pitching arm by utilizing the entire body. Above average pitchers don't produce velocity with their arms, but instead, velocity is the result of their ability to utilize the lower half of the body.
A pitchers throwing motion is complex, and difficult to understand if you haven't researched it. Many youth pitchers simply do not understand why or how to use their body as one unit when delivering a baseball. Every pitcher needs to learn how this process works in order to prevent pitching injury.
Youth pitchers must develop effective pitching mechanics at an early age to prevent arm injuries in the future. The best way to do this is through finding a legitimate pitching instructor that is knowledgeable about pitching mechanics.
Keep working hard. No off days. No excuses.
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To get to the next level, preparation matters. Your work ethic matters. Being committed to the process matters. Big league pitchers spend far more time preparing to pitch than actually pitching. The journey is just as important as the end result.
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