Saturday, January 7, 2012

How to prevent shoulder injuries in adolescent pitchers?

Adolescent pitchers face myriad challenges, aside from trying to strike out their opponents. The demands of multiple sports leagues that keep baseball season going year-round, the physical challenges of pitching with bones and muscles that are still developing, and an unwillingness to acknowledge injuries or symptoms can all contribute to sore shoulders and potentially serious injuries.
Youth baseball has become a year-round activity in many states, rather than just a springtime sport. Researchers at Mississippi State University believe that young pitchers throwing all year long may develop arm fatigue, and that throwing so much with a tired arm can lead to injuries. The seriousness of these injuries may not be obvious for a couple of years, but the strain on young shoulders may leave pitchers no alternative but surgery to correct the problem. Keeping adolescent hurlers to strict pitch counts, not just during a given week, but throughout the year, may help address the problem. However, Mississippi State researchers acknowledged in their 2008 report that there is no ideal pitch count.
Growth Factors
Adolescent pitchers who strain their pitching arms are doing damage to growth plates in the elbows and shoulders. The growth plates, which are the areas of growing tissue at the end of long bones, don't fuse until around age 15 in the elbow and age 20 in the shoulder. Injuries to the growth plates can have long-term effects, as well as short-term results, such as keeping pitchers off the field as they try to recover from their injuries.
Cooperation from Kids
Only a pitcher knows exactly how his arm feels, though a catcher or hitter can have a pretty good idea how a pitcher is throwing the ball. Kids seldom want to be taken out of a game or be told to sit out a game completely, but they should be reminded and encouraged to be honest and forthcoming about shoulder pain or any other injuries they incur. Coaches and parents should explain that by addressing injuries early, young pitchers may avoid longer-term injuries and problems down the road.
Diagnosis and Prevention
In addition to overuse and fatigue, poor pitching mechanics, poor conditioning and the type of pitches thrown can all contribute to shoulder pain and shoulder injuries. If young pitchers seek out medical attention, x-rays may show damage to the growth plates. Tenderness, swelling and pain in the upper arm and shoulders will also help doctors determine the nature of the problem. In most cases, rest will be the first treatment, possibly followed by physical therapy to help strengthen and stabilize the shoulder joint.

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