This spring and summer, thousands of Quad City area baseball and softball players will take to the fields, representing their teams, winning trophies and for some, dreaming of coveted college scholarships.
Unfortunately, careers and college dreams can be derailed by premature injuries from throwing too hard, too much, too early, or with too little rest.
According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS), a recent study found, “53 percent of the parents/caregivers of youth baseball pitchers are unaware of safe pitching practices designed to prevent overuse injuries — common tears or damage, most often to the elbow or shoulder — which can cause pain, lost play time and, if not treated appropriately, arthritis, deformity, and disability.”
“We are definitely seeing younger and younger players with these types of injuries coming through our Sports Medicine Center,” says sports medicine surgeon, Dr. Ryan Dunlay, ORA Orthopedics.
“There are basically 2 types of baseball injuries we see: overuse injuries caused by repetitive stress from activity like throwing and pitching, and injuries caused by sudden tears or trauma to the elbow or shoulder.”
According to the AAOS, between two and eight percent of youth pitchers will suffer an overuse injury from throwing too hard, too often, too young, and/or without appropriate rest, once pain begins in the shoulder or elbow.
One recent study found approximately 38 percent of pitchers will miss at least one game because of arm pain, with 34 percent experiencing pain severe enough to warrant a physician’s visit.
“The first and most obvious treatment for these common overuse injuries is to stop throwing or significantly decrease the frequency and intensity of the throwing,” advises Dr. Dunlay.
“Ice and anti-inflammatory medication can also be helpful but should never be used to help an athlete “throw through the pain.”
Dr. Dunlay says if pain persists or reoccurs after appropriate rest, the player should be examined by a sports medicine professional who understands the needs of the throwing athlete.
“Elbow and shoulder injuries in young athletes are rising at an alarming rate,” adds Dr. Dunlay.
“Given the fact that all of these factors can be modified, coaches and parents play a key role in preventing many of the common injuries ORA treats in young throwers.”
For more information about ORA’s Sports Medicine Center of Excellence, call 563-322-0971.
Tips to Prevent Throwing Injuries
- Warm up by running and gentle stretching before throwing
- Begin each practice with throwing technique and then progress distance and velocity slowly
- Avoid pitching for multiple teams in the same season
- Never pitch with shoulder or elbow pain
- Emphasize proper mechanics and control
- Avoid using a radar gun
- Take at least four months off from throwing each year
- Limit the number of throws per day
- Adhere to pitch count and rest guidelines charts
When your Athlete Feels Pain
- First, stop throwing or significantly decrease the frequency and intensity of the throwing.
- Ice and anti-inflammatory medication can also be helpful but should never be used to help an athlete “throw through the pain.”
- Throwing with pain is NEVER normal – no matter the age of the athlete. If pain persists or recurs after appropriate rest, see a sports medicine professional who understands the needs of the throwing athlete.
Other helpful reference charts for pitchers and parents: