Welcome, baseball enthusiasts! The much-awaited Opening Day for the Detroit Tigers is finally here, marking the beginning of a new baseball season. This season promises to be a delight for all baseball lovers, regardless of how the Tigers play this year at Comerica Park.
The arrival of Opening Day signals the start of baseball season for all aspiring little leaguers and high school athletes. Personally, I anticipate the beginning of baseball season with great excitement. It’s an opportunity to relish the delightful spring weather while reveling in the joys of playing ball at every level, ranging from T-ball and church or city softball leagues to watching professional teams such as the Detroit Tigers.
In the sports medicine world, the beginning of baseball season also signifies the yearly peak of baseball-related injuries. With over 40 million individuals participating in baseball across the country this season, approximately 500,000 of them will endure injuries related to the sport. Though baseball and softball cannot be compared to one of America’s most dangerous sports-professional bull riding, they are still susceptible to various types of injuries. These injuries are typically categorized into throwing injuries, running, and sliding injuries, and injuries caused by being hit by a bat or ball.
If you want to take a trip around the bases – and not a trip to the doctor’s office or emergency room – you’ll want to read the following recommendations:
My practice is flooded with young baseball players who have overused their arms, particularly pitchers. Little leaguers’ elbows and shoulders are common conditions caused by repetitive throwing motions that can irritate and even fracture growth plates in a young thrower’s arm. It’s alarming to see a significant increase in the number of young throwers seeking medical attention for sore shoulders and elbows over the last decade, with a corresponding surge in the incidence of surgery for these problems.
Many leagues have implemented pitch count or inning limits to address this issue to prevent overuse injuries. It’s crucial to take these precautions because no young athlete wants to suffer from a worn-out shoulder or elbow that could hinder their college career.
Based upon its expertise and review of existing studies, the USA Baseball Medical & Safety Advisory Committee makes the following recommendations for minimizing a pitcher’s risk of future serious arm injury.
Recommended limits for youth pitchers are as follows:
|Pitches Per Game
|Pitches Per Week
|Pitches Per Season
|Pitches Per Year
By adhering to guidelines such as refraining from throwing breaking balls until high-school age and limiting pitching to a maximum of 9 months per year, pitchers can prevent numerous injuries and issues. However, even with these precautions, young pitchers may encounter problems when playing for multiple teams and participating in travel leagues and specialized clinics for an extended period. Ultimately, it is critical to prioritize a pitcher’s health, and if they experience considerable pain while throwing, it is essential to seek medical attention.
In 2014, we published an article in the American Journal of Sports Medicine on a fascinating study. According to our findings, a young pitcher who continues to pitch with a tired or sore arm will face an exponential increase in the risk of serious injury. Similarly, if a young pitcher fails to take at least one-third of the year off from pitching or participating in other sports to reduce the repetitive stress on the developing shoulder and elbow, the risk of injury will rise significantly. Additionally, if a young pitcher disregards the generally accepted pitch count and rest guidelines outlined above, the risk of injury will increase greatly.
If you’re unsure, keep in mind Dr. Joe’s Rule of Ones:
- Focus on one game at a time and avoid pitching in two games in one day.
- Take it one day at a time and avoid pitching on consecutive days.
- Limit yourself to a maximum of one hundred pitches per game, even if you’re a more experienced young pitcher.
- Stick to playing one position at a time and avoid playing as both a pitcher and catcher on the same team.
- One team at a time, avoid playing on multiple teams with overlapping pitching schedules.
- Take a break from pitching by participating in at least one other organized sport or taking one season off.
- If you experience arm pain or fatigue, take one week off.
Running and Sliding Injuries
Injuries resulting from running and sliding are not uncommon among players. Adopting proper sliding techniques and utilizing breakaway bases can substantially decrease the likelihood of injury. However, it’s worth noting that even with these precautions, it’s difficult to prevent the occurrence of scrapes and bruises on our gravel fields in Southeast Michigan. Therefore, players should be vigilant and inspect the playing field for any potential hazards like holes, glass, or other debris before commencing play.
“Getting Hit” Injuries
Using suitable protective gear can prevent serious injuries when a player is struck by a bat or ball while playing baseball or softball. Protective equipment is an essential requirement for organized games. Whether you’re spectating at Comerica Park, cheering on your child, or participating in your own softball league, remember to prioritize safety and enjoy your game.
So, let’s play ball – but let’s do it safely! Remember, Dr. Joe’s Rule of Ones! With these precautions in mind, you can enjoy the sport you love and stay safe while doing it.
For more info on injury prevention in youth sports, go to www.aossm.org. The American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM) educates the public on ways to prevent injuries in young athletes, and their website has useful links and information.
Dr. Joseph Guettler is an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in sports medicine, as well as surgery of the knee, shoulder, and elbow. His office is located in Bingham Farms, MI. Visit www.miorthosurgeons.com for more information on Dr. Guettler and his practice, Michigan Orthopaedic Surgeons. Dr. Guettler also specializes in the treatment of baseball and softball injuries in growing athletes.