The big hurt
With the recent increase in young athletes specializing in baseball year round, there are several key things that are important for them to know to avoid injuries. Baseball players should be educated about posture, strength, warm-ups, pitch counts and proper throwing technique.
Posture is often overlooked with athletes. Posture is the result of a balanced muscular system that can control various aspects of timing and force to generate power needed for throwing and hitting. Breakdowns in posture will lead to increases in injury. Good posture is the optimal position for your muscles to work effectively without creating a risk for injury.
It is common for athletes to concentrate on the muscles in their chest and arms, while forgetting about the muscles in their backs. Weakness in your mid and upper back and tightness in the chest leads to the shoulders rounding forward, which puts the rotator cuff muscles around your shoulders in an ineffective and dangerous position. The muscles in a baseball player’s back, along with the rotator cuff, are essential in maintaining control of the shoulder during throwing. During off days it’s good for all baseball players to strengthen the mid and upper back muscles.
With throwers, it is important to remember that strength and control in your legs and core are just as important as in your shoulders. Most of the power for throwing begins in your legs and core. By improving your core strength and activation you can throw harder without your shoulder and arm working harder. Working on your strength in your core and legs on off days will help you with performance and lower the risk of injury. Flexibility in your hips and legs allows them to use their available strength.
Before games use active warm-ups to prepare the muscles in both your arms and legs for the stresses of a baseball game. After the game always stretch your calves, hamstrings, quadriceps, hips, shoulder internal rotation and shoulder cross body adduction to prevent loss of motion. Remember that post-game stretches should be held for 30 seconds and should be steady with no bouncing.
Pitch counts are an important way to prevent injury in pitchers. It’s important to note that increased performance and speed of pitching, actually increases the stress put on the body of a pitcher. Every pitch puts small amounts of damage on the elbow and shoulder. The body needs time to be able to heal this damage. I am not advocating that pitchers should not throw to their full potential. However, they should not pitch too much during a game or too frequently without adequate rest days. The following pitch counts are recommended by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgery:
- 8-10 year olds - 50 pitches/game, 75 pitches/week
- 11-12 year olds - 75 pitches/game, 100 pitches/week
- 13-14 year olds - 75 pitches/game, 125 pitches/week
- 15-16 year olds - 90 pitches/game, 150/160 pitches/week
- 17/18 year olds - 105 pitches/game, 150-160 pitchesweek
The more times a baseball player pitches in a single game, the longer the player should rest. While resting from pitching, baseball players should not play catcher. The two players that throw the most during a baseball game are pitchers and catchers, and for both positions, the most important component of healing is the rest time.
Pitch counts are not the only reason that pitchers should stop pitching during a game. With youth pitchers, throwing form is a huge factor in preventing injuries. Throwing form should not suffer from fatigue. When pitchers start to sacrifice form, they should be taken out of the game and rested. Common issues that arise from fatigue are dropping the elbow, leaning away from the throwing arm and the elbow lagging behind the shoulder. Quality pitching coaches are important to establishing good throwing form. Safety should always be the number one priority, when deciding between keeping a player in the game and resting them.
Protecting your baseball player from injury
Kyle Tatum is a SPORTS Rehab specialist for Cook Children’s. Cook Children’s SPORTS Rehab is a leader in the community in sports injury. Additional information and helpful tips can be found on the Cook Children’s SPORTS Rehab website. Cook Children’s SPORTS Rehab is a leader in the community in sports injury prevention. The Cook Children's SPORTS Symposium is Saturday, July 2, 2014, and will provide evidence-based methods for preventing, treating and rehabilitating sport injuries in young athletes.Register for the symposium today.