AUSTIN -- Little leaguers as well as middle and high school players are gearing up for their baseball seasons, but if your son or daughter is a pitcher there are some alarming new statistics about the increase in overuse injuries.
Parents need to know the answers to questions such as:
- How many pitches does their child thrown in the game?
- How many do they throw warming up?
- How many days rest does their child receive between outings on the mound?
According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons – those are questions more than half of the parents could not answer and partly to blame for the increase in overuse baseball injuries.
The crack of the bat on the baseball is 13-year-old Luke Banister's second favorite sound. His first favorite is the pop of the catcher's mitt after one of his pitches. Pitching is Luke's first love – but it's something he won't get to do at all this season when his team at Brentwood Christian School takes the field.
"Every time I threw it felt like something was really wrong," Luke said.
Luke pushed himself too hard during warm ups at a recent winter camp.
"He noticed a little sensation in his elbow when he would throw hard," said Janet Banister, Luke's mother. "At that point we're like 'uh-oh.'"
X-rays revealed inflammation on the growth plate in his elbow.
"The act of throwing is one of the most violent things you can do in sports," said Scott Smith, an Orthopedic Surgeon with Texas Orthopedics. "Your shoulder movement is essentially through 900 degrees within a second."
Smith says that huge amount of rotation and overload from the number of pitches puts too much stress on the shoulder and elbow.
"So essentially about an 80 mph fastball is approximately the strength of that ligament," said Smith.
Luke's mom, Janet, said she was among the more than 50 percent of parents unaware of safe pitching practices, but that's changed since Luke's injury.
"We're so much more knowledgeable now than we were even a month ago," she said.
Luke is more aware as well. He will no longer push himself on the mound. He's just glad to hear that in a few weeks doctors should allow him to play all other positions on the field.
"Oh I'm really excited to play," said Luke. "Just a few more games that I can't throw, but I'm ready."
Doctor Smith said one of the best ways to cut down baseball overuse injuries is to eliminate year-round participation in the sport. He said that can be accomplished simply by encouraging players to be multi-sport athletes.
Click here to learn more about the findings from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.