Pitch count. Thresholds. Days rest. To any Little League® parent, these are familiar terms, especially for those who have children who are pitchers. And, while coaches are concerned with what these mean for game-day decisions and practices, parents need to be aware of what they mean for the health of Little Leaguers’ arms.
No matter where your child plays in the field, arm health is an important aspect to baseball and softball. Little League has used years of internal research, medical studies and insight from some of the most respected voices in sports medicine to ensure that arms, especially those of baseball pitchers, are protected.
“We’ve shown through Little League that we’ve absolutely decreased the number of injuries to the throwing shoulder and elbow with our strict pitch-count rules at different ages,” said Dr. James Andrews, world-renowned orthopedic surgeon, Founder and Medical Director of the American Sports Medicine Institute and Little League International Board of Directors Member, in a recent interview with Athletic Business.
In 2007, Dr. Andrews worked with Little League to create the pitch count rules to protect young arms from injury. Through multiple research studies, it’s been shown that overuse is the largest cause of arm-related baseball injuries. With children getting more pressure to pitch year-round, play on multiple teams and focus too much on velocity and pitch speed, Little League is one of the only organizations to enforce a pitch count with varying thresholds and days rest based on the age of the pitcher, to make sure young arms stay healthy.
When Little League developed our pitch count rules, we also launched a five-year study with the Yawkey Foundation and the Department of Exercise and Sport Science at the University of North Carolina to look at the impact of throwing breaking pitches on young arms. In 2011, that study revealed that there was no increased risk in injury due to breaking pitches, such as a curve ball. The study also further affirmed that overuse was the largest culprit in youth arm injuries.
If you’re looking to protect your pitcher’s arm, purchase a rulebook to familiarize yourself with Little League Baseball® Division’s pitch count regulations, and play close attention to the days rest. If your children play on teams outside of Little League, keep your own pitch count and work with all your coaches to make sure your Little Leaguers® aren’t throwing too much and are getting the rest they need between games. When practicing in the backyard, focus on proper stretching, warming up, cooling down and resting arms to prevent overuse.
For more information on risk factors for arm injuries, read this Dr. Andrews interview on ESPN.com.