Youth baseball has become as popular as ever in the United States, with millions of children participating in organized leagues each year. However, the sport has also been associated with a high risk of injuries, particularly to the elbow and shoulder of young pitchers. One study published in the Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery in 2021 found that youth baseball pitchers who played in more than eight months of organized baseball per year had a significantly higher risk of elbow and shoulder injuries compared to those who played in fewer months of organized baseball.
This study is important because it highlights the impact of overuse on the health and well-being of young baseball players. Overuse injuries occur when a player is exposed to repetitive stress over an extended period of time, leading to tissue damage and pain. In baseball, overuse injuries are common among pitchers, who are required to throw the ball at high speeds, often multiple times per game.
The study involved a systematic review of existing literature on youth baseball and overuse injuries, as well as a meta-analysis of data from several studies. The researchers looked at a variety of factors, including the number of months per year that players participated in organized baseball, the number of games played per week, the number of pitches thrown per game, and the age and skill level of the players.
The results of the study showed that youth baseball pitchers who played in more than eight months of organized baseball per year had a significantly higher risk of elbow and shoulder injuries compared to those who played in fewer months of organized baseball. Specifically, the risk of elbow injuries increased by 30% for every additional month of organized baseball, while the risk of shoulder injuries increased by 22%.
The study also found that the risk of injury increased with the number of games played per week and the number of pitches thrown per game. Youth pitchers who played in more than four games per week had a significantly higher risk of elbow and shoulder injuries compared to those who played in fewer games, while those who threw more than 75 pitches per game had a higher risk of elbow injuries.
The age and skill level of the players also played a role in the risk of injury. The study found that younger players (under the age of 13) and less skilled players (those who played at lower levels of competition) were at a higher risk of injury compared to older and more skilled players.
Overall, the study provides important insights into the risk factors for overuse injuries in youth baseball, highlighting the need for coaches, parents, and players to take steps to prevent injury. Some of the recommendations include limiting the number of months per year that players participate in organized baseball, reducing the number of games played per week, and monitoring the number of pitches thrown per game.
It is also important for coaches and parents to pay attention to the signs of overuse injuries, which can include pain or discomfort in the elbow or shoulder, reduced range of motion, and weakness in the affected area. If an injury is suspected, players should be evaluated by a medical professional and given adequate time to rest and recover before returning to play.
As I wrote about before (HERE) there are also a number of preventative strategies that can help reduce the risk of overuse injuries in youth baseball. These include proper warm-up and arm care routines, regular strength and conditioning, and proper throwing mechanics from more low stress throwing volume. Coaches and parents can also encourage players to participate in other sports or physical activities during the off-season to reduce the risk of burnout and overuse injuries.
In conclusion, the study published in the Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery in 2021 provides important insights into the risk factors for overuse injuries in youth baseball. By understanding these risk factors and taking steps to prevent injury, coaches, parents, and players can help ensure that youth baseball remains a safe and enjoyable sport for all participants.