Monday, April 23, 2012
New Little League study throws curveball to conventional wisdom
The sights and sounds of Little League baseball, which as many of us know at this young age don’t always include the crack of the bat or the ball smacking the catcher’s mitt, got underway last week.
What has also emerged (again) is the debate over what had always seemed like a good theory — that throwing curveballs is bad for young pitchers.
Little League Baseball has released a study that surveyed 1,300 pitchers from 8 years old to college that found that there is no specific link between throwing curveballs and arm injuries.
For many of us that appears counter-intuitive. Watching the arm torque associated with throwing curveballs or sliders would seem to prove otherwise.
However, the study could not demonstrate that specifically throwing curveballs was dangerous, but the researchers wouldn’t say they were safe either.
This study and a review of previous studies revealed that the main reason for arm injuries is overuse — too many pitches thrown, not enough days off from throwing, playing on too many teams at once, playing catcher and pitcher for a team (not at the same time, of course!) and playing more than 8 months of baseball in a year.
Other arm injury related factors were the fatigue level of the player and the use of improper throwing mechanics. Thus, the type of pitch is not as important as the number of pitches thrown and the condition of the player.
The bottom line is at this age, baseball should be more about fun and less about curveballs. We can keep it fun by avoiding injury and making sure players and parents follow these guidelines:
• Always warm up and cool down thoroughly.
• Practice correctly. Proper pitching mechanics can certainly reduce the stress on young arms.
• Don’t throw too much — there is definitely no question that throwing too many repetitions can lead to injuries. Follow Little League guidelines for number of pitchesthrown and pitching frequency.
• Take at least three months off from baseball per year.
• Don’t pitch through pain. If you feel anything unusual, stop pitching immediately and let your coach know.
So, have fun and play ball! I’m going to get some peanuts and Cracker Jacks…
Geoffrey Fabry is a physical therapist with The William W. Backus Hospital’s Rehabilitation Services Department. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your personal healthcare provider. If you want to comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at www.backushospital.org/backus-blogs or e-mail Dr. Fabry or any of the Healthy Living columnists at firstname.lastname@example.org