Kids' Health May Be at Risk on the Ballfield

Hospital for Special Surgery’s Tips for Preventing Young Athletes’ Injuries

New York, NY—February 25, 2002

Currently, over 2.9 million kids participate in Little League baseball and softball. That’s up by more than 50% since 1980. With more and more kids involved in team sports and the pressure to win rising among these young jocks, their health safety is now seriously jeopardized.

“The conditioning and training of young athletes is not the same as that for adult athletes. Winning isn’t everything when it comes to kids. Therefore, parents must involve themselves in the health safety of their children on the playing fields. They must aggressively protect them from overuse injuries and physical damage that can result in lifelong disabilities,” according to Dr. Jordan Metzl, Medical Director of the Sports Medicine Institute for Young Athletes (SMIYA) at Hospital for Special Surgery.

Here is Hospital for Special Surgery’s Parents & Coaches Guide to Baseball & Softball for Young Athletes:

  • Good health and a well-balanced diet are essential.
  • Age appropriate training and recovery time is necessary. Dr. Metzl notes “A good rule of thumb to remember is to insure that your young athlete’s OVERALL training increases by no more than 10% per week in amount and frequency."
  • A daily regimen of warm up and stretching exercises will decrease muscle tendon imbalances, increase range of motion, promote circulation and improve performance.
  • Lifting should not begin earlier than age 8 to 10. There appears to be no increase in musculoskeletal risk if:
    • The young athlete is mature enough to accept instruction.
    • Training occurs in a controlled, supervised setting.
    • Use proper form and equipment, i.e., perform full range of motion exercises.
    • No maximal lifts are allowed.
    • Proper spotters are utilized.
    • No competition among lifters is allowed.

HSS Pitching Dos & Don’ts for Adolescents

Dr. Metzl stated, “Parents and coaches should pay special attention to the pitching prowess of adolescents. Professional pitchers who most likely enjoy long and successful careers are those who did not overwork their arms while they were still maturing.”

Therefore, parents and coaches should remember to:

  • Limit the amount of throwing that a child does at the start of the season.
  • Build up arm strength and endurance gradually.
  • Emphasize trunk strengthening as the support of the kinetic chain.
  • Don’t graduate a child from throwing to pitching until the child is between ages 8–10.
  • Encourage a child to throw more overhead pitches.
  • Pitchers under age 13-14 should focus on fastballs and changeups without overthrowing the ball. 
  • A child should throw NO curveballs or sliders until age 13-14 at the earliest. Safe mechanics are difficult to master before this age.
  • LIMIT THE NUMBER OF PITCHES that a child throws per week. Little League guidelines call for pitching for NO MORE THAN 6 INNINGS PER WEEK. General guidelines are that pre- and early adolescent pitchers should not throw more than 80 to 100 pitches per week. As the pitcher matures and builds up strength and endurance, then the number of pitches thrown can gradually increase.
  • Adolescents should not throw competitively between games they pitch.

HSS Early Warning Signs & Symptoms of Injuries

Since young ball players are very enthusiastic about playing the game, they often do not report problems with their elbow or shoulder. Therefore, to help improve the chances of early diagnosis and treatment, parents and coaches must pay attention to a number of early warning signs of impending injuries:

  • Arm fatigue
  • Arm soreness that persists for more than a day
  • Shoulder or elbow stiffness and soreness with trouble “getting loose”
  • Impaired throwing mechanics and/or poor batting performance
  • Sports Facilities and Equipment
  • Equipment should be in good working order and appropriate for the size of the athletes.
  • Playing surfaces need to be in good condition.
  • Breakaway bases minimize lower and upper extremity injuries.

Dr. Metzl added, “Parents and coaches must remember that most super athletes are not born that way. Their talents and aptitudes are developed properly over time. Super athletes did not always win their games while growing up.”

About Hospital for Special Surgery
Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) is the world’s leading academic medical center focused on musculoskeletal health. HSS is nationally ranked No. 1 in orthopedics and No. 2 in rheumatology by U.S. News & World Report (2016-2017), and is the first hospital in New York State to receive Magnet Recognition for Excellence in Nursing Service from the American Nurses Credentialing Center four consecutive times. HSS has one of the lowest infection rates in the country. HSS is an affiliate of Weill Cornell Medical College and as such all Hospital for Special Surgery medical staff are faculty of Weill Cornell. The hospital's research division is internationally recognized as a leader in the investigation of musculoskeletal and autoimmune diseases. Hospital for Special Surgery is located in New York City and online at


Find a Physician

Conditions & Treatments

adult child
Select A Body Part

Complete Listing »

Media Contacts

Tracy Hickenbottom
Monique Irons
Sherry Randolph


Social Media Contacts

Andrew Worob
Otis Gamboa