Young Pitchers at Risk for Serious Shoulder Injuries

If you want little Johnny to have shoulder and elbow problems early in life, sign him up as a pitcher for the Little League team across town with that retired Marine drill sergeant as a coach.

Meanwhile, if you love Johnny and want to preserve his athletic career, enrolling him in a Little League program, limit how many innings he can pitch and continue to change his positions on the field.  That’s the smart move, according to the experts, and his throwing shoulder and elbow will thank you.

The American Journal of Sports Medicine recently reported the results of a 10 year study on the impact of young pitchers (aged 9 to 14 years old) who suffer from shoulder and elbow injuries.  The study  noted the scary fact that “pitching more than 100 innings in a year significantly increases risk of injury.”

I know of professional baseball scouts that see the trend of baseball pitchers who grow up in southern states tend to have more shoulder and elbow injuries earlier in their careers compared to similar pitchers raised in northern states.  The reason:  the cold weather in the north allows these athletes to throw less at a younger age by forcing them to participate in other sports during the winter months.

The study by the AJSM, authored by many highly respected sports medicine experts including Dr. James Andrews, found that young pitchers who pitched more than 100 innings in a year were 3.5 times more likely to be injured.  By limiting the number of innings pitched and prolonging the age at which these young athletes start to throw curveballs, the pitchers’ are much less likely to suffer from a shoulder injury.

When you look at a Media Guide for any professional sport, you’ll always be surprised to see the various positions and sports that the pro players played in their youth.  That’s not a coincidence.  “Cross training” and improving athleticism with many sports at a young age has great value for the body and the mind.  In this age of specialization, joints and bones of young growing athletes specializing in one sport or activity may have a tendency to be negatively altered.

Controlling the volume of hard throwing and the type of pitches a young body is allowed to throw is smart injury prevention in my book.  Let’s allow our kids to enjoy being kids.  As for Dad’s goal of his son being the next big star pitcher…let’s make sure Johnny is dreaming that same dream and if we protect his shoulder at a young age, he’ll have an arm left to chase that dream.

Author: Mike Ryan

After 26 seasons as a full-time certified athletic trainer and registered physical therapist in the National Football League, Mike Ryan has outstanding first-hand experience. His unique professional and athletic background has sharpened his skills in the arts of sports injury management, elite rehabilitation, performance enhancement and injury prevention. Mike is now taking his experience to mainstream America. His mission is simple: Sports Medicine advice that is easy to use and brings fast results. Learn more about Mike Ryan

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