Keeping Your Young Baseball/Fastpitch Players Healthy and Strong

By: Russell Kowalinski | Posted: 04/26/2024

At this point in time, baseball and fastpitch seasons are in full swing, bringing with them the sounds of bats cracking and balls smacking into gloves. As your sons and daughters immerse themselves in the excitement of the game, it's essential to prioritize their health and well-being to ensure a successful season ahead.

While baseball is often considered a relatively safe sport, statistics reveal a concerning trend: almost half of pitchers aged 9-14 experience elbow or shoulder pain at some point during the season. Even more alarming is the fact that approximately one-third of Little League pitchers never progress to high school due to overuse injuries sustained during their formative years.

The most common complaints among young pitchers are medial elbow pain and anterior shoulder pain, often indicative of injuries to the growth plate in those regions. Prompt evaluation by a medical profession is crucial in these cases, with treatment potentially including anti-inflammatory medications, and rest from throwing, and specific exercises to take the pressure off the inflamed area. Physical therapists can be your first line of defense when looking for evaluating a players throwing arm.

Education plays a pivotal role in preventing and addressing these injuries. Both players and parents must understand the factors contributing to overuse injuries and how to mitigate them. For instance, research shows that Little League pitchers who throw sliders have an 86% higher risk of elbow pain, while those who throw curveballs face a 52% increase in shoulder pain. Therefore, focusing on mastering fastball variations and incorporating safe off-speed pitches like the changeup is advisable.

From a physical standpoint, addressing common dysfunctions such as poor balance and muscular instability around the pelvis, shoulder blade, and lead leg is essential. These dysfunctions not only affect performance but also increase the risk of injury by placing abnormal stress on tissues, particularly in the throwing arm.

Whether a pitcher seeks performance enhancement training or rehabilitation, the goals remain consistent: achieving balance, stability, and endurance while generating rotary power and maintaining a clean, balanced finish in each pitch.

It's crucial to heed the warning signs of pain, as they indicate underlying issues that require attention. While elbow or shoulder pain isn't necessarily a catastrophe, ignoring it can lead to further complications. Early intervention is key to facilitating a speedy recovery and preventing long-term damage.

Every league and tournament has specific pitch count rules, aiming to reduce overuse injuries. While these pitch counts provide guidelines, it's important to remember that they are maximums, not minimums. Additionally, personal pitch counts should be recalibrated if players participate in multiple leagues or tournaments within a short timeframe.

As parents we put our trust in the coaches to look out for the best well being of our sons and daughters, but we also need to play a role. Don't let your coaches take advantage of how much your player is throwing. Just because they are throwing well and nothing hurts now, it does not mean they should keep going!

Lastly, it's worth noting that while pitching is a prominent aspect of the game, there are eight other positions on the field that offer opportunities for participation with lower risk of overuse injuries.

As we continue another season of baseball and fastpitch, let's prioritize the health and safety of our young athletes. May they enjoy a fulfilling and injury-free season, supported by informed decisions and proactive measures to safeguard their well-being.

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