Does my athlete throw too much?
You’re not alone in asking this question, as we find that many youth athletes love throwing when they’re good at it, and it can be difficult to get them to stop. However, there can be serious long-term repercussions when youth athletes are not forced to pump the breaks or pitch in moderation.
Since throwing places a large amount of stress on both the elbow and shoulder, repetitive throwing can cause a large amount of cumulative microtrauma on the elbow and shoulder, which over time can be detrimental to performance and cause injury if not monitored appropriately. In Lyman’s 2001 study, it was found that the odds of an elbow injury increased by an additional 6% for every 10 competitive pitches thrown by 9-14-year-old athletes during a given season. In Olsen’s 2006 study comparing injured vs healthy populations of adolescent athletes aged 14-20, pitchers who threw more than 8 months per year were 5 times more likely to be injured, while pitchers who regularly pitched fatigued were 36 times more likely to be injured. Beyond just these two studies, there have been several other pieces of research which have shown that it is critical for parents and coaches to monitor workload and understand the limitations of how frequently youth athletes can and should pitch.
We recommend tracking as much data as you can in regards to the number of throws your athlete makes each season, particularly if he/she is relatively advanced for their age. Abiding by MLB PitchSmart guidelines, which were created and modified in consideration of the recommendations of several of the papers linked to above, is also a good way to manage workload over time to prevent over usage.
If you have any questions about youth athlete workload, please call us at 425-523-4030 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.