A Scary Strike in Throwing Sports

Why young athletes are at a higher risk of injury.
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The spring sports season plays host to baseball and softball, some of kids’ favorite throwing sports. Each year as players get back into the swing of things, the demand that these sports can put on the upper extremities (arm, shoulder and elbow) tees up another curveball: the potential for injuries. Youth and adolescents are more susceptible to throwing injuries than any other age group. Here are a few reasons why the risk increases:

  • Poor preparation. While colleges, high schools and some middle school programs start the preseason early or play year round, year-round conditioning is not recommended for younger athletes. 
  • Body composition. The stresses on developing bones, ligaments and tendons with throwing can be overwhelming to the structure and integrity of the tissues of younger athletes. Their bodies simply aren’t prepared to handle the physical stress of constant throwing.
  • Overuse. Of the injuries sustained by youth baseball and softball players, overuse injuries tend to be the most common. These injuries happen more frequently than injuries caused by specific types of pitches or throws.  Simply using the arm too much in a repetitive pattern can lead to nagging injuries such as elbow soreness and rotator cuff tendonitis in baseball, and wrist and elbow flexor tendonitis in softball.

As a parent, you can set your child up for a successful baseball or softball season and still minimize their risk of injury simply by being aware of what causes throwing injuries and implementing a program to help prevent them. Pitch Smart guidelines from USA Baseball offer suggestions to help set throwing and workload limits, and Little League has regular season pitching rules for its players.

You can also make sure your child takes part in a properly designed off-season training program or works with a physical therapist to maintain and build strength both in the arm, as well as other supporting areas of the body like the core and legs. Pre-season conditioning and following guidelines designed to protect the developing athlete from overuse injuries are some of the best defenses to help reduce the degree and scope of injury in the younger athlete.

Shaun Riney is a physical therapist with OrthoCarolina Monroe.