Reducing Pitching Injuries in Youth Baseball

Biomechanics could be a game changer

More than two million youth put on their baseball gloves and caps each spring and head for the diamond to participate in America’s pastime. Sadly, a growing number of the pitchers among them will experience serious arm injuries.

There’s been a dramatic rise in surgical treatments since the 1990s that repair the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in the elbow, such as Tommy John surgery. What’s alarming about that is that the fastest growing category of UCL reconstruction patients are youth and high school pitchers.

Youth baseball injuries

What’s behind the rise in injuries

Youth baseball is increasingly being played as year-round sport or even the only sport for some players, so it’s all too easy to exceed 100 innings in a year. Parents, lured by the hope of college scholarships and even the possibility of a pro career, are encouraged to have their children play on travel teams, in year-round leagues,and participate in showcases.

Ironically, a great number of young pitchers suffer micro-tears of the UCL before they’re even drafted.

Pitch Smart was introduced in 2014 by Major League Baseball and USA Baseball and offers pitching guidelines for each age group and encourages pitch count limits and resting the arm for extended periods.

Taking steps toward reducing injuries

Making biomechanic analysis more accessible to non-professional players may be a way to reduce UCL injuries in young players. Biomechanics is the study of how the skeletal and muscular systems work under various conditions. For instance, rather than simply measure the  the acceleration of the elbow, a biomechanical equation calculates the force on the elbow.

The technology of biomechanical analysis enables the correction of certain mechanics that typically can’t been seen with the eye. Fleisig sits on the board of Motus Global, which is looking to commercialize this technology.

Motus Global, of which Fleisig is a board member, is looking to commercialize their biomechanical analyzation products to all levels of the sport – professional, collegiate, high school and youth leagues. Fleisig says there are two benefits in the mainstreaming the use of using biomechanics: avoiding injury and improving performance. That’s a win-win.


Source: Ben Berkon. “Biomechanics and the Youth Pitching Injury Epidemic,” www.sports.vice.com. 07 Apr 2016.