I recently read an article by Dan Peterson on his blog that talked about a recent study that evaluated youth baseball pitchers. This opened my eyes to how much damage we could be doing in the youth leagues, especially the travel teams that play 9-12 months per year. This study came of out the American Journal of Sports Medicine.
This study took place over a 10 (yes 10) year period, with over 481 athletes ages 9-14. That's what you call validity. The boys were asked about number of innings thrown, if curveballs were taught before the age of 13, and if playing catcher had an influence on injury. In summary the numbers showed that kids who pitched over 100 innings in a year were 3.5 times more likely to be injured..... I'll let that sink in.
Also, 5% of the boys had a serious enough injury that forced them to retire or quit. RETIRE BEFORE THE AGE OF 14! Some please get Strasburg to come throw a heater at the parents heads now. There is no way that these kids didn't have symptoms that they told parents or coaches about before it became so bad that a MIDDLE SCHOOLER had to retire from a sport that they liked to play with their friends. I hope others see what's wrong with this situation.
Learning to throw curve balls before the age of 13, however, had no correlation to injury. I would have guessed the opposite, but it just shows that overuse is a much bigger issue.
So enough ranting, What can we do about this?
EVERY Little League, club league, and youth league must monitor innings pitched for each player. Education, education, more education, then action. Good thing is that the biggest organization has already started this. The Little League World Series already says a player must wait a day after 20 innings pitched and 3 days if they pitched 85 innings. This doesn't mean they can't play baseball, but throwing pitches in games is much different than playing catch with friends.
Another solution is educating parents on how else they can improve pitching without pitching. Gaining strength and power is pretty dang important. Encourage push ups, pull ups, planks, etc. as well as other rotational sports like lacrosse, tennis, hockey, golf, and frisbee. A body that is pre-pubescent is going through so much change that adding in a different stimulus with a similar concept will improve everything they do. The kid doesn't need to stop being athletic but they must stop throwing over 100 innings per year.
Now help me get the word down to the parents and coaches of the leagues that aren't monitored as closely or we will continue to have kids over worked and injured before they reach high school.
The Other Side:
I've mentioned before that 3 great kids that have worked with me and attend the school I work for have made some moves in the music industry. They're called Dirty Gold and they just released their first EP called Roar. It's available on iTunes and is absolutely fantastic. Here's an acoustic version of there first single "California Sunrise."