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Kids' pitching injuries rising

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© iStockphoto.com / Michal Besser © iStockphoto.com / Michal Besser

SUNDAY, June 23 (HealthDay News) -- Despite the introduction of pitching limits in youth baseball, throwing injuries requiring surgery are increasing at a dramatic rate in the United States. Now, a new study identifies the major reasons behind this continuing rise.

According to one estimate, serious throwing injuries now occur 16 times more often than 30 years ago.

This three-year national study of more than 750 pitchers, ages 9-18, identified several factors contributing to the problem, according to study leader Dr. Joseph Guettler, an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist with the Beaumont Health System in Royal Oak, Mich.

"It became very clear that dangerous pitching behavior is occurring among pitchers as young as Little League all the way through their high school years. And, the blame doesn't usually lie with the leagues or coaches. Most were found to be adhering to nationally recognized guidelines for pitch limits and rest. It seems much of the blame lies with behavior of parents and their kids," Guettler said in a health system news release.

Contrary to national guidelines limiting pitches thrown, about 13 percent of pitchers pitched competitively for more than eight months of the year, 40 percent pitched in a league without pitch counts or limits, nearly 57 percent pitched on back-to-back days, and 19 percent pitched more than one game in the same day.

The study also found that nearly one-third of pitchers pitched for more than one team during the same season, one-third played only baseball, and 10 percent also played catcher on the same team. Catcher is another position that requires a lot of throwing.

"The most prevalent reasons for arm pain and tiredness can be boiled down to five major issues," Guettler said. "The following behaviors can lead to arm pain and tiredness which can then lead to the most significant shoulder and elbow injuries."

These are:

- Pitching for more than one team during the same season.

- Pitching more than one game during the same day.

- Pitching on back-to-back days.

- Pitching in a league without pitch counts or playing year-round.

- Throwing curve balls before high school.

The first step in reducing the number of pitching injuries can be remembered with a simple, newly coined "Rule of Ones," Guettler said.

It means one game a day, one day of pitching then rest, one position at a time during a pitched game, one team at a time, only one pitch before high school, and at least one season of some other organized sport. If a young pitcher says his or her arm is sore or tired, parents need to make sure the youngster takes some time off. One complaint of arm soreness or tiredness equals one week off.

More information

The Nemours Foundation offers youth baseball safety tips.

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