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 > Little League Online > Media > Little League News Archive > 2010 > September - December > High School in New York Chooses to Protect Pitching Arms, to Follow Little League's Pitch Count Guidelines

High School in New York Chooses to Protect Pitching Arms, to Follow Little League's Pitch Count Guidelines

High School in New York Chooses to Protect Pitching Arms, to Follow Little League's Pitch Count Guidelines

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Garden City limits pitchers to 105 pitches per game. Photo: Seattlepi.com

Safety for high school pitchers is becoming an important concern, especially at Garden City High School.

Frequently, a high school pitcher throws more pitches than a young arm can handle. What pitchers and coaches fail to realize is that the constant stress on a developing arm can lead to serious repercussions, including surgery.

“A pitch count is an objective way of saying, ‘I’m not overusing this kid,’” said Richie Smith, head varsity baseball coach at Garden City. “That’s the main thing you’re looking for with your pitch count.”

Smith takes a strong stance on implementing pitch counts, and his policy mirrors that of Little League Baseball and Dr. James Andrews’ American Sports Medicine Institute. Pitchers may throw no more than 105 pitches in a single game and must follow a detailed program of rest depending on the number of pitches thrown.

Though some pitchers will want to remain in the game and finish what they started, Smith said that his pitchers do not have a choice.

“You may get a kid saying, ‘Hey, Coach I can go another inning,’” Smith said. “Maybe he can, but then the amount of time to get back on the mound may be not what we need.”

“If you overwork your arm, that just leads to injuries,” said Jimmy Duff, a senior pitcher at Garden City.

When the playoffs arrive in May, Smith said that he is a little more lenient with the pitch counts. His goal is to increase his pitchers’ stamina over the course of the season so that throwing more pitches would not physically drain them.

During the offseason, Matt Daley, relief pitcher for the Colorado Rockies and graduate of Garden City, returns to run instructional training sessions for the pitchers.

“We try to build their body and arm endurance up by time,” Smith said. “Two minutes: you don’t think two minutes is a lot. Then we build it to three minutes, we build it to four minutes. We try to get up to six minutes.”

Currently, Nassau County Baseball has no restrictions on pitch counts. The only mandates in place are that a pitcher cannot pitch more than 12 innings per day or 18 innings per week.

In early November 2010, the New York City Public School Athletic League announced preventative pitch count measures for the upcoming spring. The responsibility of monitoring pitch counts falls on the coaches, who can be suspended for dishonest behavior.

“The coaches should really follow the recommended guidelines because statistical evidence is there that shows that if you don’t follow them, there is a much higher risk of surgery,” said Dr. Neo Stefanides, orthopedic surgeon specializing in shoulder injuries.

The American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine launched a nationwide study in April 2010 to analyze growth plates in children to predict injuries before they occur.

“Right now there’s been very good medical literature that excessive pitch counts per game and per season are associated with both shoulder and elbow injuries,” said Dr. Ben Kibler, fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine.

Dr. Kibler claims that younger pitchers should be cautious of their pitch counts because they have not yet developed their optimal muscle strength and pitching mechanics.

“I think there should be strict limits put in place especially at the high school level when everyone is trying to do well, maybe trying to put on performances for college scouts,” said Matt Thaler, a former catcher for Garden City.

Edited by Pat Holohan