Little League Shoulder Prevention

Both throwing injuries to the shoulder and elbow are best prevented by limiting the number of pitches a young athlete throws. Some youth baseball organizations limit the number of innings a player is allowed to throw. Because the number of pitches per inning can vary widely, counting the number of pitches you throw provides a better way to accurately measure stress on the shoulder or elbow. This can be done by a coach, parent or teammate.

8-10 years 40-50 pitches
11-12 years 55-60 pitches
12-14 years 60-70 pitches
14+ years 70-85 pitches

Remember these numbers are recommendation. If the athlete develops pain with a less number of pitches, stop throwing and inform their coach at the first sign of pain.

But unfortunately, there is no way to 100% guarantee that a young thrower will not develop a shoulder or elbow injury, but here are some tips that can be taken to minimize the risk.

  • Always warm up before throwing.
  • Start the season with an evaluation of their throwing mechanics by a pitching coach or a physical therapist with knowledge in proper throwing mechanics.
  • At the first sign of elbow pain, stop throwing and apply ice. When the pain is gone, resume throwing from short distances and at half-speed. If the pain persists more than a couple days or if the pain returns when throwing resumes, see your doctor for an evaluation.
  • Remember to count hard throws when not pitching (playing infield, throwing at home, pitching lessons, PE class, etc). No curve balls or other breaking pitches until age 14 or the pitcher is shaving. Young pitchers should master command and control of the fastball and change-up before attempting to throw curve balls. The proper curve ball requires a large enough hand for finger placement across the top or the ball so ball release does not put any stress on the wrist or elbow. Young pitcher’s hands are too small for proper finger placement and they must twist or torque the wrist and elbow to get the ball to rotate. This increases stress on the inner elbow growth plate.

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