Question: When should young players start practicing to pitch?
Answer: Coaches and parents often have questions about throwing injuries and how to prevent them. These are legitimate concerns since there is a trend in youth baseball for shoulder and elbow growth plate injuries. The common issue is players often don’t have enough recovery time prior to the next outing and subsequently may play through pain. Pain is often perceived as part of the game. Adolescent growth plates are vulnerable to stress up through the later teen years and injuries to these areas are often season ending due to the amount of healing required. Below are some of the topics associated with throwing injuries and the challenges faced by young player:
To reduce the risk of injury – conditioning drills should be initiated prior to the start of the first practice. Kids in shape at the beginning of the season have a better chance of performing at a higher level and staying injury free. Concentrate on flexibility, upper body and core strengthening and always include running drills. This combination will help ensure that the body is ready to accept the demands of the season.
Just like any other sport it is very important to warm up and stretch before a player throws. Light conditioning at the beginning of practice warms muscles making it easier to stretch them. Stretching should include the upper and lower body as well as the hips and back.
Learn proper throwing mechanics and master them completely before starting to pitch. Always avoid using a radar gun. Young pitchers should never be concerned with how hard or fast they can throw, instead of how efficiently they throw. Throwing hard combined with poor or inefficient form almost always predisposes injury. Proper mechanics decreases stress on arm, and increases overall control and speed.
Young players often think (incorrectly) arm soreness is part of the game-as if it is a badge of honor. Soreness can alter mechanics as players try to avoid painful arm positions. Shoulder and elbow pain should always be concerning to coaches and parents. Early intervention and activity modification can expedite return to play and reduce the risk of a more serious injury that may be season ending.
Pitch count is the actual number of pitches thrown during a game. Little League and MPTLL use limits in order to reduce the amount of stress placed on a pitcher’s arm. Pitch count limits take into account the age of the thrower and limits the number of pitches that should be made during each game as well as the number of required day's rest in between pitching appearances. Adhering to pitch count guidelines is critical for the longevity of a pitcher’s arm.
Question: Are there certain pitches they should avoid?
Answer: A fastball should be the first pitch to be learned and it this has been mastered a change-up can be added. Breaking pitches should be taught by someone with knowledge of proper pitching mechanics, otherwise there may be undue stress placed upon a young pitcher’s arm predisposing him to elbow and shoulder injury.
Question: Is it okay for my player to pitch for multiple teams?
Answer: Sometimes players join more than one team at a time to get as much experience as possible. At MPTLL players may play regular season baseball and Challenge baseball at the same time. This situation warrants close attention to proper rest to avoid “breakdown” from overuse and decreased recovery time. MPTLL challenge and regular season coaches as well as League Coordinators monitor pitch counts for the player as well as the team. Our coaches are held accountable for making sure the player doesn't exceed individual pitch limits and these players take the appropriate days rest in between pitching appearances. Overall body/arm fatigue CAN alter mechanics and lead to injury!!