SUNDAY, April 4, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Baseball and softball are wonderful sports for children, but players in some positions face a higher risk of injuries to their still-growing bones and muscles.
For pitchers, overuse of the elbow or shoulder is the most common culprit.Up to 45 percent of baseball and softball pitchers under the age of 12 experience chronic elbow pain, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Among high school pitchers, that increases to 58 percent. To prevent these injuries, many youth sports organizations have set a limit of six innings of pitching per week and require pitchers to rest between appearances.
NIH says that teaching youngsters the proper mechanics of pitching can also prevent serious overuse injuries. Other recommendations to prevent injuries to young pitchers include:
- Before children start a training program or play competitive baseball or softball, make sure they have a thorough physical exam. Tell the physician if the child is planning to be a pitcher. The doctor can help assess any special injury risks a child may have, including shoulder, arm, elbow or wrist weakness.
- Insist that your child warm up and stretch properly before playing.
- Teach your children not to play through pain. If your child gets injured or experiences muscle soreness or pain that persists, see your doctor. Follow all the doctor's orders for recovery, and get the doctor's OK before the child returns to the mound. Make sure first aid is available at all games and practices.
- Talk to and watch a child's coach. Coaches should enforce all the rules of the game, encourage safe play, and understand the special injury risks that young players face. Make sure a child's coach teaches players how to avoid injury when pitching and the proper mechanics for baseball or softball delivery.
- Above all, keep baseball and softball fun. Putting too much focus on winning can make your young pitcher throw too hard or too long, and risk injury.
Learn more about how to prevent pitching and other injuries in youth baseball and softball from the American Academy of Pediatrics.