Baseball season is here. Did you know that Little League and adolescent throwers are as susceptible to many of the same stresses on their arms as adult players? Often, injuries that develop at a young age may become more serious as the player becomes older. However, certain precautions can be taken to prevent or minimize injuries. Mickey Levinson, Physical Therapist, offers the following guidelines that parents and coaches should follow with this goal in mind:
1. Fatigue is a major factor for injuries in pitching. Limit the number of game pitches thrown. There are age-related pitch counts set by the USA Baseball Safety Advisory Board.
2. Prevent young pitchers from throwing curveballs and sliders until they are physically mature or their shoulder and elbow growth plates are closed.
3. Learn to throw a changeup as an effective alternative
4. Avoid pitching in multiple leagues during the same season.
5. Work with a coach to develop good throwing mechanics.
6. Avoid trying to overthrow pitches. Learning to change speeds and locating your pitches may be a safer alternative to trying to throw as hard as you can on every pitch.
7. Pitch only to the point of fatigue, not through it.
8. Never ignore persistent shoulder or elbow pain — do not try to pitch through it.
9. Maintain good all-around strength and flexibility with a year-round training program provided by your physical therapist or other qualified health professional.
Michael Levinson, Physical Therapist and Certified Sports Clinical Specialist, is a Clinical Supervisor for the Overhead Athlete at the James M. Benson Sports Rehabilitation Center at Hospital for Special Surgery. He has published numerous chapters and articles on Sports Medicine Rehabilitation, developed the HSS Throwing Manual and has lectured extensively on various subjects regarding the shoulder, elbow, knee and ankle. He has been a consultant to numerous youth, high school, collegiate and professional athletes.