At the bottom of the ninth, with two outs and a full count, all eyes are on the pitcher. Will they make a winning pitch? If they’ve been overusing their pitching arm, not getting enough rest, or using a radar gun, they may not be able to perform at the top of their game. Pitching injuries are on the rise in young athletes, and the best treatment for shoulder and elbow injuries is prevention.
If you or your child participates in baseball as a pitcher, know that throwing injuries may be more common than other types of sports injuries. Prevention of a pitching injury is the first step to staying on the field.
How can I prevent pitching injuries?
Some of the best pitching injury prevention tips from orthopedic specialists are:
- Learn good throwing mechanics as soon as possible
- Avoid using radar guns, which encourage pitchers to throw harder and faster than is healthy
- A pitcher should not also be a catcher for their team
- If a pitcher complains of pain in their elbow or shoulder, discontinue pitching until they are evaluated by a sports medicine physician
- Inspire youth pitchers to have fun playing baseball and other sports
How are pitching injuries diagnosed?
The signs of a pitching injury may be different depending on the athlete, but pain, soreness, and fatigue are all common signals. If you suspect you or your child has a pitching injury, make an appointment with an orthopedic specialist who has experience with sports medicine and treating common sports injuries. Continuing to pitch with an injury can prolong healing time and make the problem worse.
In order to diagnose a pitching injury, an orthopedic specialist will take a complete medical history, do a physical exam, and may order diagnostic imaging tests such as an X-ray and MRI to determine the cause and severity of a pitching injury.
What is the treatment for pitching injuries?
If you’re worried that a pitching injury could sideline you or your child indefinitely, there’s good news. Most injuries to a throwing athlete can be treated successfully without surgery.
The most common treatments for pitching injuries are:
- Rest from throwing
- Physical therapy, including strengthening of rotator cuff, scapula and core; and stretching of posterior shoulder capsule
- Throwing program, including monitored increase of throwing to help pitchers transition safely back to play
In the rare case a pitching injury requires surgery, the ability to return to play post-surgery depends on the location of the injury. If the surgery is in the shoulder, nearly half of pitchers return to play. If the surgery is in the elbow, 90 percent of pitchers return to play.
Every patient and every injury is different. The best prevention is making sure pitchers use healthy mechanics, take proper resting periods between innings and seasons, and listen to their bodies.