Spring heralds the start of the baseball season—or is it the other way around? Either way, the diamonds are filling up with millions of little leaguers as the new season starts after a long winter. These first few weeks are of particular import because of the new strains on young athletes after the off-season. Little League injuries can be as stressful for parents as they are for their children, so we’d like to offer some background as well as a few tips on how to prevent injury in one of the most injury-prone positions on any baseball team: The pitcher.
The main issue with young pitchers is that their bodies are not fully-grown, so the repetitive motion of pitching takes a toll on their undeveloped elbows and shoulder. In children, the growth plates of these joints are still open, and the surrounding muscles and ligaments are not fully built up for protection. For minors especially, injuries to these undeveloped joints can have lasting affects on function, so it is of paramount importance to follow the rules of prevention throughout the season.
The most basic form of prevention remains conditioning. Staying loose and warming up allows the muscles to stretch out and better absorb the repetitive stresses of pitching. Similarly, having the correct technique can greatly limit improper sprains and strains in a pitcher’s arm, so make sure your child is getting the necessary training he or she needs.
By far, however, the most common cause of injury in little league pitchers is pitching too much. Luckily, Little League Baseball has a set of rules for young pitchers that restrict how often they can pitch, and the types of pitches they can throw, according to their age. There are additional rules that define the required amount of rest between games, as well as assigning a mandatory downtime of 3 months for pitchers in any given year.
Following these rules cannot fully protect pitchers from injury, but they can help limit damage, and allow for a strong recovery. Baseball is meant to be fun, which includes the twists and turns of competition. But competition cannot come at the expense of a long-term injury, especially when it comes down to young pitchers pushed to the edge in the name of winning. Preventing injury now means that your child will be throwing fastballs for a long time—whether for fun or even professionally. All that’s required is some easy conditioning, the proper technique, and adequate rest throughout the season.