Are we taking appropriate care of our young baseball pitchers?

Chuck Nave, PT, DPT, Cert. MDT

For years we have noticed that many baseball pitchers suffer from career altering or ending injuries. We are now seeing an increased prevalence of injuries to our youth pitchers. These injuries include shoulder rotator cuff injuries and labral tears to ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) tears in the elbow.

Pitchers are throwing much faster than 20-30 years ago, and this increase in speed has led to more UCL tears in the elbow. We have seen a few of these locally over the past few years among high school and college pitchers as its prevalence is increasing.

Is some of this preventable – possibly so? Pitchers do not need to throw more than 8 months a year and pitch count limits need to be adhered to based upon age level. Athletes need to play multiple sports – specialization does not need to occur until at least high school and even then it is debatable. College and Pro scouts prefer multiple sport athletes. Pitch limits are certainly not a guarantee of avoiding a problem as pitching mechanics also play a strong role.

Our best information suggests that pitchers need to do the following to prevent injuries:

  1. Perform specific stretches for the shoulder
  2. Perform shoulder and elbow strength exercises – such as the Thrower’s Ten Exercise Program
  3. Fine tune throwing mechanics – use video to assist in this process with a good coach
  4. Adhere to pitch limits – see Pitch Smart online – this site provides age specific guidelines
  5. Learn to know the difference between pain and soreness!

There is a great book by Jeff Passan “The Arm” on this subject which any fan of baseball would enjoy. If you have a question or need some guidance on this issue please contact one of our offices where one of our Physical Therapists can assist.

Chuck Nave, PT, DPT, Cert. MDT