Thursday, March 26, 2015

Injury Prevention: Little League Pitch Counts and Rest

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We have discussed pitch counts and injury prevention for our young athletes in the past, but with baseball season upon us, it is important to remind parents and athletes of the guidelines. Young athletes feel invincible and feel injury "won't happen to them". As a physician with over 20 years of experience in sports medicine, I can assure you that injuries can and do happen. Luckily, some simple precautions can help minimize injury risk.

It is important to mention that while the old adage “practice makes perfect” is true, our youth need guidance in order to prevent injury. Overuse injuries in school aged athletes are on the rise. The incidence of shoulder and elbow injuries among youth baseball and softball players is five times greater than it was in the year 2000.[i]

Many of these baseball injuries are preventable. In recent years, Little League Baseball has released guidelines and enforced regulations to help prevent injury in young athletes (see charts below). The league has put limits on pitch counts during games and also enforced required rest periods. All the guidelines are based on the age of the athlete.

While the guidelines from Little League Baseball are important, there are additional steps that can be taken at practices and off the field.

Here are some tips:
1. Always warm up – stretch, jog and begin with some easy, gradual throwing
2. Try different positions – different positions require the use of various muscle groups
3. REST – don’t play year round and allow rest between games
4. Focus on your form, accuracy and control
5. If you have shoulder or elbow pain, do not pitch
6. Talk to your parents and coaches about any pain – do not play through the pain!

Getting kids involved in sports at an early age is a great idea, but it is important to remember an injury can end their baseball career too soon. By following the suggestions outlined here, injury can be avoided and a lifelong love of baseball and activity can be built!