Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Little "pitchers" can get grownup problems

Americans love baseball...sometimes too much.

Michael T. Freehill, MD, associate professor of sports medicine and orthopaedic surgery at the University of Michigan, says he is seeing patients as young as 8 with injuries from overusing their arms in baseball.

Freehill himself plays professionally for eight years.

In a recent interview, Freehill defined "pitch count," as the number of pitches a player throws in one game. But this, of course, is not the extent of the throwing--players also warm up by throwing beforehand or throw between innings.

As the thrower gets tired, the muscle or soft tissue become less effective at protecting the arm. The ulnar collateral (Tommy John) ligament will see more stress from the fatigue.

Overuse injuries appear in many sports and at all ages. Often these come from player specializing in say, pitching, but there does not seem to be evidence that specializing makes a player more likely to be drafted when he or she gets older.

Evidence on high-level pitch counts is scanty. Still, some experts are issuing guidelines.

One guideline is that kids should play multiple sports. Allow them to develop as athletes.

Specialization should not occur before high school.

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Remember where I mentioned the Tommy John ligament? Well, even little kids these days sometimes require the Tommy John surgery, as they call it. Surgery!

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