Keeping youth baseball pitchers safe; what parents should know

Published: Nov. 10, 2022 at 3:48 PM CST
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DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) - As youth baseball pitchers begin training for spring seasons, a doctor of Physical Therapy in the Quad Cities is encouraging parents and coaches to be cautious to avoid overuse which can lead to serious injury.

Dr. Kyle Merton of Rock Valley Physical Therapy is a former Division I baseball pitcher. One of Merton’s many specialties is throwing mechanics and working to prevent overuse when it comes to young arms.

After years of research showing that high pitch counts, pitching too frequently, and pitching while fatigued are significant factors in the rise of pitching injuries to youth, Little League Baseball and USA Baseball took action. They consulted with many experts in the field of throwing injuries, including the noted surgeon Dr. James Andrews, to develop pitch count rules to protect youth from overuse.

“One of the big things we talk about nowadays with athletes is offseason rest I mean they find more and more these days, kids are specializing too soon, which at this age with the growth plates being open, that can put a lot of unwanted stress to these bones and joints” said Mertens.

According to the American Journal of Sports Medicine, risk factors for pitching overuse include pitching too many innings, playing for multiple teams, playing in showcases, continuing to throw despite fatigue and playing more than 8 months in a year.

“There are four big components that we look for in taking a subject of history, one is the athlete playing on multiple teams? Two if he is a pitcher, is he throwing more than a hundred innings per year, three are they playing more than 8 months out of the year, a lot of the well known surgeons are saying there’s got to be two to three months out of the year where you’re not picking up a ball and throwing. That doesn’t neccessarily mean that you go sit on a couch and become a potato but getting out there and being active in another sport or another activity and develop those surrounding muscles and then paying attention to fatique, knowing when to stop” said Mertens.

Dr. Mertens works with patients at the brand new Rock Valley Physical Therapy location in Davenport off 53rd Street.

Pitch Smart is a joint initiative between MLB and USA Baseball that provides a series of practical, age-appropriate guidelines to help parents, players, and coaches avoid overuse injuries and foster long, healthy careers for amateur players.