The chase to play college baseball has exploded in the last decades. Showcases and prospect tournaments are everywhere. As a parent, you want to give your child every opportunity to chase their dream. While showcase baseball can be a valuable opportunity for young players to showcase their abilities, it also poses significant risks to their health and well-being.
Is It Worth The Physical Risk?
Several studies have investigated the relationship between showcase baseball and arm injuries in young players. One study published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine in 2016 found that pitchers who played in showcase leagues were at a higher risk of arm injuries than those who did not. Specifically, pitchers in showcase leagues were more likely to experience shoulder and elbow pain, as well as more serious injuries such as ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) tears and shoulder impingement.
This comes from the pressure to attend these events without proper arm care routines and throwing programming athletes just show up and ramp their throwing intensity up without building up intensity and volume incrementally over time
A more recent study published in the Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery in 2020 further supports these findings. The study included a sample of 238 youth baseball players (ages 9 to 18) and found that those who participated in showcase events were more likely to experience arm injuries than those who did not. Specifically, youth baseball players who participated in showcase events had a higher risk of elbow injuries and required more time to recover from injuries.
These studies suggest that showcase baseball events may contribute to the higher incidence of arm injuries among young players. The emphasis on throwing velocity (without proper ramp up) and showcasing skills in these events may encourage young players to push themselves too hard, for too long, resulting in overuse injuries that can have long-term consequences.
The Pressure To Perform
In addition to the physical risks, showcase baseball can also take a toll on young players' mental and emotional well-being. The pressure to perform at a high level and catch the attention of scouts and coaches can be overwhelming for some players, leading to anxiety, stress, and burnout.
It's Not Cheap
Furthermore, showcase baseball can also be a financial burden for families. Many showcase events require players to pay fees to participate, and families may also have to pay for travel, lodging, and other expenses associated with attending these events. This can add up quickly, and for some families, the cost may be prohibitive.
What's A Solution?
So what can be done to minimize the risks of showcase baseball for young players? One approach is to limit participation in these events and focus instead on proper training and rest. Young players should be encouraged to focus on developing their skills and improving their strength, rather than trying to throw as hard as possible to catch the attention of scouts and coaches. There's an old saying "If you're good enough, they will find you". That has never been more true in the age of social media using video and building a network of coaches interested in your skill set. Spend most of your time building your skills and the attention will come when you are so good they can't ignore you
It's also important to prioritize mental and emotional well-being by reducing the pressure and expectations placed on young players. Coaches and parents should emphasize the importance of having fun and enjoying the game, rather than placing too much emphasis on getting an offer or attending a specific school.
High School and College coaches could work together to form their own low-cost showcase network as well as educate players and parents on the recruiting process instead of leaving it up to private companies driven to make a profit regardless of player health and well-being.
While showcase baseball can provide valuable opportunities for young players to showcase their skills, it also poses significant physical, emotional, and financial risks. The pressure to perform can lead to overuse injuries, burnout, and anxiety. To minimize these risks, young players should focus on proper training and rest, prioritize mental and emotional well-being, and remember that skill development is the key to catching the attention of scouts and coaches.