Young Pitchers and Injury Prevention

Baseball season is here and teams are ramping up their practices and training time to prepare for the upcoming season. I’m not just talking about the professionals either. Kids need to start training for their little league season and get in shape to prevent injuries during the season.

Overuse injuries during youth sports are on the rise and about 20-40% of youth baseball players suffer from elbow pain alone. Sometimes this is caused by training errors and sometimes it is caused by things we can’t change like biology, but we should try and train most effectively to prevent injuries as best we can.

Competition is a driving force behind wanting to learn new pitches. Kids want to learn new pitches so they can strike out more players at younger ages. A 12 year old boy has his parent take him to a Giants’ game and he sees Lincecum’s nasty curveball. He wants to learn how to throw one and 3 weeks later, he develops elbow pain and is not able to pitch for the rest of the season because it was too much for him.  When this happens it is imperative that the young athlete rest and begin rehabbing.

However, injury can be prevented with proper throwing progression with various pitch types.  Below are some published guidelines for when it is okay to begin to throw certain pitches and how many pitches should be thrown at various ages.

Age Begin throwing a… Total Pitches per game Total Pitches per week Total Pitches per Season Total Pitches per Year
8-10 Fastball 50 75 1000 2000
11-12 Change-up 75 100 1000 3000
13-14 Curve ball 75 100 1000 3000
15-16 Slider, Forkball, Split finger, Knuckleball 90 3000
17-18 Screwball 105

Here are some guidelines on safe return to sport after rehab from a throwing injury.  Here are more guidelines for safe progression in other positions and age groups in throwing sports.  When in doubt contact a medical professional to be evaluated for risk factors affecting pitch mechanics.

Play Ball!

Little league elbow. Benjamin HJ, Briner WW Jr. Clin J Sport Med. 2005 Jan;15(1):37-40.

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