An Injury Curveball for Young Pitchers

Baseball shoulder and elbow injuries tied to pitch velocity and multiple teams among young players

(RxWiki News) The love of America's pastime might lead many young players to play as often and as hard as they can, sometimes for multiple teams. However, that might increase these players' risk of getting hurt.

A new study looked at common injuries among young baseball pitchers and found that height, pitch speed and playing for more than one team were all tied to an increased risk of injury.

"Shoulder and elbow injuries are common among youth and adolescent baseball players," explained the authors of this new study, led by Peter Nissen Chalmers, MD, of the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

Rusty Gregory, a certified strength and conditioning specialist in Austin, TX, told dailyRx News that young athletes should play multiple positions and focus on other athletic skills to boost their overall game and give their shoulders a break.

"Faulty mechanics, insufficient rest and recovery time between games and practices and inadequate warm-up routines can all contribute to overuse injuries to the elbows and shoulders of young athletes," Gregory said. "Young pitchers that focus on the skill of pitching year-round can develop muscle imbalances if they're not playing other sports or involved in a comprehensive strength and flexibility training program."

Gregory added, "Kids can improve their fitness, love of competition and 'rest' from other athletic skills by playing several sports throughout the year."

Dr. Chalmers and team wanted to explore what factors might be tied to a risk of injury among young pitchers.

To do so, they looked at 420 youth and adolescent pitchers during their preseason training. The players provided data on their history. Dr. Chalmers and team obtained data on pitching style by analyzing high-definition video of the players.

Of the players, 31 percent said they had a past pitching injury. After analyzing the data, Dr. Chalmers and team found that height, pitching for more than one team and pitch velocity (or the speed at which the ball is thrown) were all tied to risk of injury.

"Our findings indicate that a 10 inch increase in height is associated with a 20 percent increase in likelihood of a history of injury, a 10 mile per hour increase in velocity is associated with a 12 percent increase likelihood of a history of injury, and playing for more than one team is associated with a 22 percent increase in the likelihood of a history of injury," explained Dr. Chalmers in a press release. "Using these three factors alone allowed accurate prediction of 77 percent of injury histories."

Among the players studied, playing for more than one team alone increased the odds of having a past injury by 61 percent.

Based on their findings, Dr. Chalmers and team said pitchers should be discouraged from pitching for multiple teams.

This study was presented March 28 at the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine’s Specialty Day in Las Vegas. Research presented at conferences may not have been peer-reviewed.

Dr. Chalmers and team disclosed no funding sources of conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
March 27, 2015