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Monday, September 20, 2010

Common Baseball Injuries - How to Avoid Them

Common Baseball Injuries - How to Avoid Them
By guest author: Mike Pirolo

Is the Overuse of Young Arms the real culprit in the Stephen Strasburg Story?

These thoughts are less about Steven Strasburg, (my prayers go out to him and his family for a speedy recovery from Tommy John surgery) and more about the overuse and abuse of young arms starting in Little League and beyond.

While Nat officials believe that the injury to Strasburg is "Acute" (brief and severe), as opposed to chronic, I cannot help to think about the overuse and yes, abuse of young arms I have observed over the last 15 years as a youth coach and former D1 Athletic Administrator.

In a culture that is obsessed with winning at all levels, and at all costs regardless of the consequences, too many coaches lose focus on what the stated objectives are of youth sports. Below is an excerpt from the NYSCA Code of Ethics for Youth Coaches:

NYSCA Coaches' Code of Ethics
I hereby pledge to follow this Coaches' Code of Ethics.
I will place the emotional and physical well being of my players ahead of a personal desire to win.
I will treat each player as an individual, remembering the large range of emotional and physical development for the same age group.
I will do my best to provide a safe playing situation for my players.
I will use those coaching techniques appropriate for each of the skills that I teach.
I will remember that I am a youth sports coach, and that the game is for children and not adults.

An incredibly important and specific code of ethics. However, too many times I have seen a coach's personal desire to win now override good judgment, to the point where they violate the stated playing time rules, leaving their best players in the game; I can't even count the times where I have seen coaches leave 11 year old pitchers in the game way beyond the recommended pitch counts. I've seen kids pushed to the point of tears from the pain in their arms.

This is where I believe the arm problems have their genesis. If a young player shows any promise as a pitcher in Little League, they are immediately tagged as the "ace" of the squad and subjected to egregious overuse. While the problem can at least be monitored in Rec ball, the travel team concept pushes pitch counts and innings to the limits of sanity. Most of the recent studies in this area point to pitch count and lack of recovery time as the main culprits. Ironically, these are two areas of management that can be controlled if the coach has the will.

In their recent article "Prevention of Overuse Injuries in Young Baseball Pitchers", Eric D. Parks, MD* and Tracy R. Ray, MD state:

"With millions of young athletes participating in competitive baseball annually, it is essential that physicians, coaches, parents, and the athletes themselves become aware of potential overuse injuries. Monitoring for the signs or symptoms of common overuse injuries may prompt diagnosis and prevent further deterioration and injury.

Abiding by recommendations proposed from the various organizations and research institutes will help decrease the incidence of these injuries. With these measures, the young thrower can continue to participate and compete at the highest level possible.

The following safeguards have been recommended for preventing youth throwing injuries:
-Breaking pitches should not be thrown in competition until bones have matured, as indicated by puberty. A rule of thumb is that a player should not throw breaking balls until he is shaving regularly.

-Young pitchers should develop proper mechanics and participate in year-round physical conditioning programs.

-Pitchers should not be allowed to return to the mound in a game in which they have already been removed as the pitcher. In addition, no intense pitching practice should take place after the game.

-Showcases are discouraged.

-Pitchers are discouraged from pitching in more than one league if multiple leagues overlap within a season.

-Pitchers should not compete in baseball for more than 9 months in any given year. At least 3 months of arm rest from drills or any other stressful overhead activities (quarterbacking, competitive swimming, playing softball, etc) is highly recommended.

-Specific rest periods between outings are recommended on the basis of age and quantity of pitches

Prevention of long-term chronic arm problems in young pitchers would seem to be common sense, as outlined in the Dr's Parks and Ray's research article. However, it will take a concerted effort on the part of Coaches, Parents and Administrators to halt the destruction......Is winning a 6th grade baseball game really worth an 11 year-olds arm?

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1 comment:

  1. Thanks for giving this great blog on sports related terms and too good post.


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