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As we (hopefully) begin to move out of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have an epidemic right here in youth baseball - and it’s worse than ever!
This is a relatively new issue that has been exacerbated by the increased participation in “travel” and “select” baseball, and coach’s increasing desire to chase wins and trophies (or rings).
I talked a few weeks ago about how weekend tournaments are ruining youth baseball
, and a large part of that is how chasing wins leads irresponsible coaches to overuse young pitchers.If you missed that one, go back and check it out, but subscribe now for free so you won’t miss anything else!
I’ve had this on my mind a recently, and I’ve seen example after example of overuse being shared on social media.
GameChanger box scores are being shared showing 9 and 10 year olds throwing 80+ pitches. 9 year olds are throwing complete games on Saturday and then again on Sunday.
I see it here locally all the time. And it’s not just one team or coach. There are some that are worse than others, but the bottom line is, we have to do better!
⚾ Why is it bad?
There are volumes and volumes of research and publications from orthopedic surgeons calling for less use and plenty of rest in young arms, so I won’t bore you with the details - but the bottom line is elbow surgeries in young baseball players have skyrocketed.
Sports medicine experts have called it an epidemic driven by the expansion of youth sports leagues, the rise in the number of kids focusing on just one sport and playing it year-round, competitive pressure, and myths about the procedure.
The bigger issue for younger players is they probably won’t see the negative effects right away. In fact, it could be years down the road.
That’s what makes this even worse to me. Youth coaches are so selfish, they’re abusing young arms in games that don’t matter, and when the kid gets to a level where it does matter, his arm (and possibly his career) is ruined.
⚾ How to stop it?
The best way to handle this is for coaches and parents to just use common sense.
Throw a responsible number of pitches and then ensure there is plenty of rest before throwing again.
But let’s talk about some specifics.
The very first effort to limit overuse came in the form of regulating innings pitched. A few leagues and tournaments still do this, but a lot of leagues and tournaments are using pitch count guidelines.
Even if a tournament only tracks innings pitched, we should all be using our own pitch count tracking as well.I’ve added a nice inexpensive pitch counter to my product idea list on Amazon. Check it out here.
While some flexibility can be given depending on the kid and the circumstances, there are plenty of guidelines available that you can use.
Major League Baseball has a Pitch Smart program
where they list the following notes for coaches and parents of 9-12 year olds:
Focus on athleticism, physical fitness, and fun
Focus on lea
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