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Overuse vs. Misuse In Youth Pitching

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The big debate in youth baseball pitching is pitch counts.  Counting pitches in games has been widely endorsed by little league, ASMI and many other professional establishments hellbent on reducing overuse injuries from throwing too much.

Are they correct in their findings and recommendations?

Yes...and NO!

The one area they seem to miss the most is the misuse of mechanics.  Misuse is the #1 factor for pitching arm injuries.  Pitchers misuse the arm by using faulty mechanics that stress the arm and its joints repeatedly.  Because of faulty mechanics, stresses are placed on the elbow and shoulder needlessly.  Overuse of pitchers with faulty mechanics will most definitely lead to arm injuries.

Overuse of the pitching arm (with any type of mechanics) in young, developing arms will lead to growth plate injuries.  Until pitchers reach 16-19 years of age, growth plates have not yet reached their full development.  In the elbow, all five forearm muscles attach to their medial epicondyle (located on the inner elbow) and constantly pull on the medial epicondyle which can lead to growth plate fractures, separations and ulnar nerve irritation.  In the shoulder, the growth plate located near the top of the shoulder can separate causing "little league shoulder".xrayelbowxrayshoulder

Understanding youth pitching injuries must also mean understanding the difference between proper and faulty mechanics to avoid common and uncommon injuries.  Pitch counts while still using poor mechanics will only delay injury, not prevent it.  Copying successful major league pitchers is the first way to learning injurious mechanics as most big league pitchers still get injured or develop soreness on a daily basis.  If their mechanics can cause these strong as an ox pitchers to become sore and injured, what impact do you think they would have on Little Johnny?

The only true way to eliminate pitching injuries in youth pitchers is to properly teach proper throwing mechanics and give their bones adequate rest during their offseason to properly allow their bones and growth plates to mature correctly.  Once a pitcher's growth plates have closed, pitchers can then start our advanced weight training routine to train their arms to throw everyday.  

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