Newswise — Sports medicine doctors applaud a new national mandate to regulate pitch count for high school ball players nationwide by 2017 and all state high school associations to establish appropriate pitch count limits. Recently, the National Federation of State High School Athletic Associations specified that every state is required to implement pitch-count limits before the 2017 high school baseball season.
Concerned about “an epidemic of shoulder and elbow overuse injuries” in young pitchers, Dr. Brian Forsythe, Dr. Anthony Romeo and Dr. Gregory Nicholson, sports medicine physicians at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush (MOR), are joining forces with their colleagues to urge high school coaches to limit pitch counts to 90-95 pitches per game for 15-16 year olds, and 105 pitches per game for 17-18 year olds and put limits on ball speed and enforce mandatory rest time and pre-season strength-training exercises.
MOR doctors, who are team physicians for the Chicago White Sox, have completed a series of studies investigating the health of young throwing athletes and all reach the same conclusion: high school pitchers are throwing too much without proper recovery time. Over the past five years, these doctors have seen a significant increase in the number of young pitchers who come to their offices with shoulder and elbow conditions.
They say that parents and players often envision scholarships, while coaches eye the empty spot in the trophy case. But these four doctors, and the majority of sports medicine physicians and athletic trainers, have their eyes on the long-term effects of shoulder and elbow overuse in youth pitchers and recommend the following:
• Pitch Count. Currently fewer than 10 U.S. states regulate pitch count for high school baseball players, but that will change with the new mandate. Players should not be allowed to pitch more than seven innings in a three-day period. A study published in The American Journal of Sports Medicine showed a significant relationship between the number of pitches thrown and the risk of shoulder and elbow pain in youth baseball players.
• Limiting ball speed. The doctors believe there should be limits on ball velocity – especially during practice. More studies need to be conducted to determine what speeds are safe and unsafe.
• Mandatory rest time. During the off season, ball players need to rest and find time to cross train with another sport that won’t require overuse of the shoulders and elbows. Playing all year round is not recommended.
• Pre-season training. Baseball players should develop an appropriate strength training regimen that can be used all year round, but especially during preseason. A recent study by Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush found that improper core and leg strength may be a key component of fatigue and ultimately injury in pitchers. As pitchers became fatigued, trunk rotation timing begins to falter and shoulder and elbow pain may increase. For this reason, exercises that focus on core training and strengthening muscles in the legs, abdomen and back are recommended. .Dr. Romeo notes that, “On average, only one percent of high school baseball players will be drafted into Major League Baseball. Since shoulder and elbow injuries may lead to chronic injuries later in life, it is important to educate ball players and parents that the risks sometimes outweigh the benefits.”
Making Sure Overhead Athletes Aren’t in Over Their Heads
MOR physicians, along with Illinois Athletic Trainers Association (IATA) and the National Pitching Association, have created a program called Shoulders For Life, which aims to get the message to coaches and parents that extensive core training is necessary, and limiting pitches is essential for the health of the throwing athletes in their care. For more information and to get complimentary bag tags with prevention exercises, log on to shouldersforlife.org.