Preventing Injuries in Young Baseball Players
MADISON - Whipping a fastball down the pipe places more than 400 Newtons - that's 90 pounds of force on the shoulder and elbow.
Now imagine the arm in question is 11 years old, and still growing and developing. And throwing 60 pitches over the course of a five-inning game.
You can see the need for teaching appropriate throwing techniques to young athletes - and so can the physical therapists and athletic trainers at UW Health Sports Rehabilitation, who launched a throwing analysis service at the UW Health Sports Rehabilitation clinic on Watts Road in March 2010.
"There's good evidence showing that youth baseball injuries are on the rise," says Karl Fry, a physical therapist with UW Health Sports Medicine. "We're going to be discussing the ways parents, coaches and kids can reduce their risk."
Most youth baseball leagues have set up rules and guidelines that limit the number of innings a player can pitch. Unfortunately, there's no rule that limits the number of leagues or weekend tournaments in which a player can participate.
That's one issue driving the rash of injuries, but it not the only one.
"Your better athletes tend to be your pitchers," notes Marc Sherry, also a physical therapist and athletic trainer with UW Health Sports Rehabilitation. "And that usually means that when they're not pitching, the coach is likely to put them at shortstop, or some position where they're throwing a lot."
Sherry recently treated a young athlete who tore his ulnar collateral ligament on the 128th pitch of a game. Yes, you read that right - the 128th pitch. By contrast, few major league managers allow their strongest starters to throw more than 100 pitches in a game.
"Now this kid is in high school and he's already had to undergo a major surgery," says Sherry. "That's the sort of situation we're hoping our new throwing analysis service will help prevent."
A March 15 clinic covered a variety of topics, beginning with an introduction to common throwing injuries, like the ulnar collateral ligament tear (the injury that requires Tommy John surgery), Little League elbow and rotator cuff impingements. The clinic also featured a video analysis of proper pitching mechanics, as well as some suggested drills and exercise players can use to avoid injuries and improve performance.
If an athlete has suffered a baseball-related injury, insurance is likely to cover throwing analysis as part of rehabilitation. Those who wish to access the service as part of an injury prevention program can opt for a self-pay option.
"A major baseball injury can be career-ending, says Fry. "It can lead to lost velocity and lost scholarships, and if you don't address the root problems early, it can quickly lead into a downward spiral."
Date Published: 03/08/2010