- Stop when tired. Pitchers who end up needing surgery as a result of overuse tend to be the ones who kept pitching when they were fatigued.
- Rest is important. Pitchers should avoid overhead throwing completely for at least two to three months a year — although a four-month break from competitive baseball pitching every year is preferred.
- Keep track of innings pitched. Learn and adhere to the recommended limits for pitch counts and days of rest (one to four days, depending on the number of pitches). You can find details on the ASMI Web site, http://www.asmi.org/asmiweb/position_statement.htm.
- Do not pitch on multiple teams with overlapping seasons unless you can keep to the guidelines above.
- Learn and use good throwing mechanics (just as pro pitchers do). There are many young pitchers who are effective on the mound — for now — but whose pitching form is almost guaranteed to overstress their arms and shoulders. Working with a fitness coach and pitching coach/instructor is a good idea.
- Avoid using radar guns to frequently measure the speed of young pitchers’ throws. This may lead them to focus too heavily on speed at the expense of protecting their arms.
- Do not pitch and catch in the same game.
- Don’t “push through” pain. If a pitcher complains of pain in his elbow or shoulder, get an evaluation from a sports medicine physician.
- Encourage young pitchers to have fun playing a variety of sports so that they strengthen different combinations of muscle groups and avoid overuse.
Glenn S. Fleisig, PhD, research director, American Sports Medicine Institute, adjunct professor, department of biomedical engineering, University of Alabama at Birmingham, and pitching safety consultant for Little League Baseball & Softball.