Injuries to youth pitchers are on the rise in recent years. Injuries to the elbow and shoulders seem to be the most prevalent. Overusing youth pitchers seems to be the biggest cause of these injuries. Using common sense and having a good plan for taking care of your arm will reduce the risk of injury.
The most common culprit of injuries to pitchers is from overuse. Overuse can come in a few forms, throwing too many pitches in a single day and pitching too many consecutive days. A pitcher can cause significant damage being overused on a single day. Keeping a pitch count is a must for any pitcher. This is just a matter of counting the pitches being thrown in a game. Below is a chart that can be used as a guideline based upon age.
Even if the single game pitch count is used getting proper rest between games pitched is also necessary. Below is a chart that can be used as a guideline for rest between outings.
Ages 14 and under
Required # of
4 calendar days
3 calendar days
2 calendar days
1 calendar day
The last piece of not overusing a pitcher is to make sure they are not playing for too long of a season. There should be at least three months between baseball seasons to ensure the proper off-season rest for pitchers.
Use of breaking balls
The next most common occurrence of arm injuries to pitchers is by overusing a breaking ball or throwing a breaking ball at too early of an age. It is easy for youth pitchers to “fall in love” with a breaking ball as most youth hitters struggle to hit it. Throwing a breaking ball is hard on young arms that are still developing, specifically the elbow. Most baseball experts recommend waiting until a pitcher reaches the age of 15 years to start throwing a breaking ball. Even then using it in moderation is recommended. Conversely, throwing a change up is not hard on an arm and is a pitch that should be developed as early as possible. The change up is a very difficult pitch for a hitter to adjust to when it is thrown right. Mastering a good change up can be more effective long term than a breaking ball. The really good pitchers have three pitches they can throw at anytime. Those three pitches are most commonly a fastball, breaking ball, and a change up.
Pre throwing routine and post throwing Icing
Pitchers need to be properly warmed up before throwing. Making sure the body is properly warmed up and stretched before throwing is very important. Taking time to jog to achieve a sweat and stretching the arms, shoulders, and legs should be done. Also jogging and stretching is important the day after throwing. Icing the elbow and shoulder immediately after throwing for 15-20 minutes is recommended to help the arm to recover.
Using common sense with youth pitchers can prevent injuries
At the end of the day using common sense with youth pitchers can prevent a lot of the injuries that are being seen. There are too many youth coaches out there that only care about winning and will have pitchers throw too many pitches, throw too many days in a row, and allow pitchers throw breaking balls at too young of an age. As the parent of the youth pitcher it is your responsibility to be their advocate and tell coaches they need to rest or have thrown enough pitches in a game if they are not monitoring these things properly.