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Little Pitchers Can Have Big Problems

Photograph by AFP/Getty Images

Got a kid who likes to play baseball or softball? Then it’s time to play hardball about how often he can pitch, according a new study discussed in U.S. News & World Report.

Severe throwing-related medical problems in children are skyrocketing in America, medical researchers say. Kids these days may be up to 16 times more likely than in the 1980s to have a throwing injury so extreme it requires surgery.

The findings were based on a nationwide study of more than 750 pitchers, all ranging in age from 9 to 18 years old.

Researchers not only identified the alarming trend in pitching-linked injuries, they also teased out several factors that are fueling it. “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,” says Dr. Joseph Guettler, an orthopedic and sports medicine specialist with the Beaumont Health System in Royal Oak, Mich. Guettler was also the study’s leader.

Some of the guidelines being ignored by our little pitchers? About 13 percent of them play competitively more than 8 months each year, and 40 percent are in leagues that lack pitch counts or limits. Almost 57 percent pitch on consecutive days, and 19 percent even pitched more than one game per day.

Guettler urges us moms to remember the so-called “Rule of Ones”: one game a day, one day of pitching followed by rest, and kids should play only one position at a time during a pitched game. They should also play for only one team at a time, and only one pitch before high school, and at least one season of a different organized sport. Most importantly, complaints of pain or soreness should be taken seriously. Any kid who says he has a sore or tired arm needs to take a week off.

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