Youth Pitching Tips For Protecting Young Arms

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Youth pitching program
ATTENTION PITCHERS: One of the big misconceptions in baseball is that playing the game keeps you in shape to pitch. I wish that was true. It's not. To get to the next level, preparation matters. Big league pitchers spend far more time preparing to pitch than actually pitching.

If you believe adding velocity could be critical to your success, check out my proven programs for pitchers of all ages.

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Despite the injury data and relatively new pitch count rules, some little league pitchers are still being over pitched. 

Until recently, there were never any pitch counts in baseball. You just pitched, and then the next game if you felt fine, you pitched again.

Amazingly, more than 6 decades later, some little league pitchers are still being over pitched.

“To where, I think a lot of coaches abused pitchers,” Donnelly said. “They just pitched them until they dropped or to win a game.”

No pitching limit rules

“A few years back, we had no pitching rules,” said Terry Bartles, president of Edison-Central League. “Our league has specifically put them in now. They are only allowed to pitch so many innings per week and when they do there is an actual pitch count for each age group so they don’t over throw.

“In the past we’ve had kids throw 100-150 pitches in a game and of course those kid’s arms were pretty much shot now so we went to the extremes to really put something in that’s going to limit how much they really can throw.”

Pitch counts have been put into the game to protect pitchers, especially the game’s youngest, but that hasn’t curtailed the amount of arm injuries. According to a 2014 study in the American Journal of Sports Medicine 57 percent of Ulnar Collateral Ligament surgeries, or “Tommy John surgery” to repair ligament damage in the elbow was performed on 15-to-19-year-olds in the United States from 2007-2011.

Dr. Michael Scarpone, a team physician with the Pittsburgh Pirates, has seen his share of elbow injuries.

“The younger you have that surgery, the less likely you will ever come back to throw effectively,” Scarpone said.

So the question players, coaches, leagues and parents need to answer is how do we prevent arm injuries in youth pitchers? Many leagues, including youth, Pony, and Legion baseball have pitch counts, and every state that sanctions high school baseball has a pitch count except Massachusetts.

The majority of the pitch counts also mandate how long a pitcher must rest before pitching again. Many youth leagues use pitch counts. The Ohio Valley Baseball League uses USA Baseball’s pitch smart system and even posts how many pitches an individual has thrown and when they can return to the mound. It’s a good system but only if a player is pitching for one team.

Proper guidance

“Sometimes kids play the same sport for different teams,” Scarpone said. “So you are coaching one team and I’m coaching another, I don’t know what you did and you don’t know what I did. I didn’t know he threw with you 3 days ago, and I’m making him throw again and no one is telling us.”

The bottom line is parents have to be their child’s biggest advocate. Keeping the player healthy has to be the top priority, according Donnelly, who spent over a quarter of a century coaching on the major league level, winning a World Series and a World Baseball Classic Championship.

Don’t put it in kids’ hands

“The worst thing I think you could ask a pitcher at that level is how you feel because a young kid is going to say ‘I feel great,’” Donnelly said. “Like you said, you’ve been through it, your arms killing you, but you’re not going to tell so you are going to go back out there and throw and guess what? You are going to get hurt.”


“If that individual looks tired he probably is,” Scarpone said. “That’s what I told people. It’s not rocket science.”

Donnelly says pitchers can help themselves stay healthy with a pregame routine of stretching, running and throwing and a post-game routine of icing the pitching arm and a strength training exercises specifically for pitching and prescribed by strength trainer.

Scarpone and the staff at the Trinity Sports Medicine and Performance Center have held clinics with local leagues like the Edison-Central League to provide information on how to protect players from injury while getting them ready to play.

Getting ready

Many players use proper stretching and running, loosen the muscles with stretch bands before throwing.

But rest is the biggest preventative. A tired pitching arm is an arm ready to be injured, whether it’s a big leaguer or little leaguer, and pitching year round isn’t going to give a pitcher a leg up on the race for the big leagues.

Year-round pitching is no good.

“I’ve got patients today, they’ve been pitching 9 months and they are 10 years old. That’s a long time,” Scarpone said. “You’ve got major league guys that don’t do that.”

Burned out, leave game

“By taking a month off they’re not going to lose anything,” Scarpone said.

Keep kids healthy

“If your kid is good enough and he stays healthy, if he’s good enough he’ll pitch maybe in college,” Donnelly said. “Forget about pitching in the big leagues -- that’s up on the moon somewhere. The percentages are not really good. However, you can have that dream but the thing you can do to help that is keep that kid healthy as long as you can especially pitching.”

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One of the big misconceptions in baseball is that playing the game keeps you in shape to pitch. I wish that was true. It's not. To get to the next level, preparation matters. Big league pitchers spend far more time preparing to pitch than actually pitching.

If you believe adding velocity could be critical to your success, check out my proven programs for pitchers of all ages.

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