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Coaches Don't Always Protect Young Pitchers' Arms: Study

Many know about pitch counts, but don't keep close track, researchers report

FRIDAY, Oct. 10, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Counting pitches reduces young pitchers' risk of arm damage, but many coaches don't use this method consistently, according to a new study.

Researchers surveyed 61 youth baseball coaches in Cincinnati and northeast Ohio, and found that all of them were familiar with pitch counts and limited the number of pitches thrown by players in some way.

The results also showed that 92 percent of the coaches knew that throwing with a fatigued arm put pitchers at increased risk for injury.

However, the survey revealed that 44 percent of the coaches do not use pitch counts all the time. And less than 10 percent monitored and set safe limits on how much their players are pitching throughout the season or year, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

In addition, 41 percent of the coaches have players who are at increased risk for overuse injuries because they play on a number of baseball teams in the same season, the study found. More than one-third of the coaches had at least one player benched due to an overuse injury.

Reasons cited by coaches for not following pitch-count recommendations included lack of knowledge, insufficient staff to keep track of pitches and not wanting to do what they viewed as a tedious task, according to the study.

The findings are scheduled to be presented Friday at the American Academy of Pediatrics annual meeting in San Diego. Research presented at medical meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

"Our results show that youth baseball coaches are familiar with pitch counting, but may not be using pitch counts all the time," study author Sara Fraley, a fourth-year medical student at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, said in an AAP news release.

"It is important for athletes, parents, coaches and pediatricians to pay close attention to how much youth pitchers are throwing and to work together to keep youth baseball a healthy and fun activity," she added.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases has more about children and sports injuries.

SOURCE: American Academy of Pediatrics, news release, Oct. 10, 2014
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