March is an exciting month for baseball fans. Temperatures are rising, Spring Training is officially underway, and fantasy players everywhere are preparing for their drafts. Listen close enough and you can almost hear the faint sounds of a crowd singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”
But baseball, like any sport, has significant issues, including the health of its young pitchers. Pitchers throw so frequently, and with such demanding velocity, that they often end up needing corrective operations such as Tommy John surgery before they even have a chance to make it to the big leagues.
But what can be done? According to a recent study from the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, the answer may be providing young pitchers with preseason prevention programs.
Such programs limit pitches, limit how long a player can pitch at a given time, and can go a long way toward preserving the athlete’s health.
“If we can encourage parents, coaches, and youth baseball organizations across the country to adopt similar programs, athletes may have a better chance for reducing time off the field because of injury,” Chuck Thigpen, PhD, ATI Physical Therapy in Greenville, S.C., and corresponding author of the study, said. “Especially considering the increased effectiveness of the program in preventing subsequent arm injuries.”
Another study, published in Radiology in 2014, found that young pitchers who throw more than 100 pitches per week put themselves at risk of an overuse injury that “can impede normal shoulder development and lead to additional problems.” The study found that pitching is the No. 1 reason for shoulder pain found in high school athletes.
Parents, coaches, and players should all pay attention to studies such as this one. Maybe pitchers can spend a little less time visiting their physician, their radiologists, and their surgeons and a little more time playing the game they love.