Despite an increasing understanding of how injuries occur, youth baseball continues to see a rise in injury rate. With current findings showing that 1 in 5 players from 9 to 15 years old will have an injury each year, parents and players are always looking for the best programs to enhance sport performance and reduce injuries. Luckily, most of these injuries won’t require surgery or major time away from the field. Understanding why most of these injuries occur is necessary. In most cases baseball injuries come down to overuse. A youth baseball injury rarely occurs because of a single instantaneous stress during sport, but repetitive and cumulative stresses on tissues lead to overload and failure.
First, understanding why most of these injuries occur is necessary. In most cases baseball injuries come down to overuse. A youth baseball injury rarely occurs because of a single instantaneous stress during sport, but repetitive and cumulative stresses on tissues lead to overload and failure. Literature continues to show that any of the following activities are correlated to higher injury rates:
1. Pitching competitively for 8 months per year, or not taking a full break from throwing for 4 months per year.
2. Pitching on consecutive days.
3. Pitching more than 1 game per day.
4. Pitching for more than one team during the same season.
Some leagues rightly implement pitch count rules or rest days, but many have yet to follow their lead. Appropriate rest and recovery are essential to staying durable and healthy throughout an entire season, and much of this can be done by avoiding the above activities. So how does overuse play out for a baseball athlete? You see, throwing a baseball overhead with velocity is a very advanced and aggressive activity, especially with the speed at which the game is played at now. In the Major Leagues the average fastball pitch has increased ~1.5 mph in just the last 5 years. In contrast to an MLB player, youth athletes are skeletally immature and often present with more strength and coordination deficits. Injuries occur because the more you throw over the course of a season, the more players lose strength and range of motion in their arm. Any given player will get tighter and weaker, falling further away from their peak performance despite their desire to progress within a season. Some studies show that pitchers can lose up to 10 degrees of internal rotation at the shoulder after throwing. When you understand this, you quickly see how a player can develop overuse injuries without adequate rest, recovery, and in-season work. Any strength or range of motion changes within season will obviously change and limit your performance and can even lead to injuries down into the elbow. So how can you enhance performance and prevent injuries? Outside of awareness of the above issues and compliance with recommended throwing limitations, it can come down to several things:
1) Starting the season as optimal as you can. Having a skilled team around you that brings the pieces together: a. Great Strength Coach b. Great Physical Therapist (see Focus Physiotherapy Website) c. Great Pitching Coach.
2) Maintain your strength and motion during the season. Active recovery on non-throwing days is critical!
3) Warm up and stretch properly before throwing. A quick 3–5-minute warm-up can go a long way.
4) Keep up your arm care in season – rest and recovery are important, so don’t neglect them.
Regular arm care including physical therapy to keep the shoulder mobile and stable can be hugely impactful. Struggling to keep your range or strength during the season? Not sure where you need to go for offseason strengthening? Want to understand how core and leg strength impact your shoulder? Not sure what a good warmup looks like? I would love to help specifically tailor a program for you after an evaluation of where you’re starting.