Spring is on its way and baseball soon will be in full swing. According to the National Federation of High School Organizations, more than 5 million children participate in organized baseball yearly with nearly 500,000 at the high school level. And while traumatic injuries are not common, research indicates youth baseball players frequently experience injuries to their throwing arms. This study, among others, shows that half of all youth pitchers experience throwing arm pain at some point during the baseball season.
Among players aged 6-12 years, elbow pain occurs in 1.5 per 1000 throwing sessions. Furthermore, more detailed research indicates players 9 years or older have a 2.7 times greater risk of medial elbow injury, 30.4 percent, than those younger than 9 years, 10.4 percent, during a 1-year period. Five percent of all youth players suffer injuries that require surgery or result in leaving the sport.
With high injury rates, it is important to have effective strategies to reduce throwing injury in baseball players. Recently two studies (in 2017 and 2019) have demonstrated the effectiveness of an injury prevention program in reducing shoulder and elbow throwing injuries. In one study, injury prevention exercises were utilized one or more times per week, while the other was performed during a warm-up period. The results of both studies demonstrated a decrease in shoulder and elbow injuries in comparison to those not participating in a program. Both studies also demonstrated improved range of motion in the injury prevention group, and, in the 2019 study, participants demonstrated increased ball speed in comparison to the control group.
As a youth sports coach myself, I understand that practice time is limited, especially time on the field. One of the benefits of the warm-up program from the 2019 study, named the modified Yokohama Baseball-9 (mYKB-9), is time. The mYKB-0 programs consists of nine exercises that take approximately 10 minutes to complete. Participants are asked to complete the program during their warm-up period at least once per week.
Injury prevention programs designed to improve strength, motion, and balance have been shown to be an effective way to reduce throwing-related injuries. Using an injury prevention program, along with education and following pitching guidelines, can keep players healthy and coming back to the game for years.
We often speak to parents and coaches about throwing safety and injury prevention. Call (402) 609-2806 if you’re interested in learning more.