A new study presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons last week aimed to identify risk factors for shoulder and elbow injury in baseball pitchers. This study identified three factors - pitcher height, pitching velocity, and playing for multiple teams - to be the greatest risk factors for injuries to the shoulder and elbow.
Dr Peter Chalmers from Rush University led the study, which surveyed and evaluated 420 youth and adolescent pitchers. Another interesting finding of the study was that breaking pitches (curveballs, sliders, etc.) were not found to be associated with injuries in these athletes. The study highlights the need for further research in this area. Current recommendations suggest that youth players stay away from throwing breaking pitches, instead focusing on throwing fastballs. Dr Chalmers' study may call these recommendations into question.
As baseball season starts up across the country, preventing shoulder and elbow injuries in pitchers is a concern for players, coaches, parents, and team physicians alike. While pitcher height and pitch velocity are not easily changed, playing for multiple teams is a modifiable risk factor for injury. Players who had pitched for more than one team at a time had a 22% increase in the likelihood of shoulder and elbow injury. Youth and adolescent pitchers should focus their efforts on one team, where arm health and pitch counts can be monitored more effectively.