Spring is here, which means baseball season, which typically means an increase in youth pitching injuries, according to Eric Small, MD, a former star Little League pitcher, current baseball coach for 16 years and a Pediatric and Adult Sports Medicine specialist with Westchester Health Orthopedics and Sports Medicine. Many Tommy John shoulder surgeries (ulna collateral ligament tears) are performed at this time of year, and unquestionably one of the main culprits is increased baseball pitching.
Injuries of the arm are caused by three reasons: pitch count, deficits in strength and flexibility, and suboptimal biomechanics (form). But the main reason is too much throwing and pitching.
Most baseball players with pitching injuries often have strength and flexibility deficits, such as:
- Weakness in shoulder abduction muscles (supraspinatus/infraspinatus) which enable lifting the arm sideways and scapular retraction muscles (that anchor the scapula-shoulder blade-trapezius, rhomboid, levator scapula and latissimus dorsi or lats).
- Flexibility deficit includes tightness in shoulder internal rotation (lifting the arm up and back).
- Leg muscle tightness includes hamstrings (raising a straight leg up to 90 degrees) and hip flexor (hip flexion should be 120 degrees).
When a player should be taken out of the game
As a parent, coach or teammate, these are items to look for when trying to determine if an injury is serious enough to take a player out of the game:
- Decreased velocity
- Change in pitching motion
- Loss of control
Most importantly, do not pitch through pain or soreness.
To read Dr. Small’s blog in fell, click here.