By Alan Lyndon
Youth baseball is no longer a recreational league centered around community, learning and neighborhood fun. It’s serious business. Those 9 year olds could be the next Derek Jeter. And the only way to find out is to play in multiple travel leagues throughout the entire calendar year.
But how does that obsessive culture physically affect the player? More specifically, are youth baseball pitchers throwing out their arms before they even reach high school? And do coaches consider pitch count guidelines when the game is (or isn’t) on the line?
“Youth baseball coaches are familiar with pitch counting but may not be using pitch counts all the time,” said Sara Fraley, a fourth-year medical student at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and lead researcher of a study on whether youth coaches are familiar with pitch count guidelines and the medical effects of overuse.
The American Sports Medicine Institute (ASMI) recommends that youth pitchers should not exceed 100 innings in a calendar year and that they should not pitch for multiple teams in overlapping leagues.
Even though all surveyed coaches were aware of the guidelines, only 8 percent of those coaches followed pitch count guidelines or set safe limits for youth pitchers. More than 60 percent of the coaches identified a lack of desire to perform the tedious task of counting pitches.
“It is important for athletes, parents, coaches and pediatricians to pay close attention to how much youth pitchers are throwing and to work together to keep youth baseball a healthy and fun activity,” Fraley said.
The ASMI recommends kids learn proper throwing mechanics as early as possible. The first steps should be to learn, in order: 1) basic throwing, 2) fastball pitching, 3) change-up pitching.
Curve ball pitching should be avoided by youth pitchers. Throwing curveballs too early may be counter-productive, leading to arm fatigue as well as limiting the youth’s ability to master fastball mechanics, according to the ASMI.
(Photo by Brian Sims via Flickr)