Pitching Injuries in Youth Baseball

Pitch counts and prevention

Baseball is among the safer sports for today’s youth. However, many of the serious injuries adult baseball pitchers suffer may have begun to develop in their youth. One of the missions of the USA Baseball Medical & Safety Advisory Committee is to provide scientifically-based information to its youth baseball members in an effort to reduce injury risks and maximize the younger player’s ability to perform and advance to higher levels.

The following recommendations were made for pitch counts, pitch types, pitching mechanics and physical conditioning, multiple appearances, showcases, multiple leagues, year round baseball.

Pitch Counts: Youth baseball should incorporate the practice of pitch counts like high school, college and pro baseball. The primary factors in predicting arm injuries from pitching are the total number of pitches thrown per game, week, season, and year. 

Age specific pitch count recommendations: 

9-10 year old pitchers:
50 pitches per game
75 pitches per week
1000 pitches per season
2000 pitches per year

11-12 year old pitchers:
75 pitches per game
100 pitches per week
1000 pitches per season
3000 pitches per year

13-14 year old pitchers:
75 pitches per game
125 pitches per week
1000 pitches per season
3000 pitches per year

Pitch Types: Previous studies have shown that breaking pitches such as curve balls and sliders place more stress on elbows and shoulders than fast balls. As a result, it is recommended that youth pitchers should avoid throwing these types of pitches.

Pitching Mechanics: Lab studies show that good pitchers at all levels use about the same mechanics and as a result proper instruction should be given to youth pitchers at an early age to avoid undue stress levels on elbows and shoulders.Youth baseball pitching injuries

Multiple Appearances: The practice of allowing a youth pitcher to return to the mound after having been removed earlier in a game is frowned upon.

Showcases, Multiple Leagues, Year Round Baseball: All of these participation opportunities are likely to result in throwing too many balls and the related overuse injuries to shoulders and elbows.

In my opinion…

I served on the USA Baseball Medical And Safety Committee with Tommy John, I overheard him say that most kids today know his name from the so-called Tommy John elbow surgical procedure than from his days as an all-star pitcher in the major leagues. It’s sad to see the explosion of these surgeries in youth baseball and to learn that many youth actually want this surgery, mistakenly believing that they will somehow be made stronger then before. At the same time, I know that the media generated by the USA Baseball study on pitch counts is having a positive impact. My son plays in a youth league and I actually see coaches voluntarily starting to use pitch counts even though they are not mandated by the league. –  John Sadler

See the Youth Baseball Pitching Injuries report by the USA Baseball Medical and Safety Committee