SATURDAY, Feb. 5, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- Young pitchers who played more than 100 innings a year were 3.5 times more likely to suffer serious elbow or shoulder injuries than those who pitched fewer innings, a 10-year study has found.
Based on the data, the researchers suggested limiting young pitchers to no more than 100 innings a year or less.
The study included 481 healthy male pitchers, aged 9 to 14, who were followed from 1999 to 2008. Each year, the participants were asked how many innings they pitched in the previous 12 months, what types of pitches they threw, and if they had suffered an elbow or shoulder injury that required surgery or forced them to stop playing baseball.
During the 10-year study period, 5 percent of the pitchers experienced a serious elbow or shoulder injury that resulted in surgery or retirement. Two of the pitchers had surgery before they were 13. Only 2.2 percent of the participants were still pitching by the end of the study.
The findings appear in the February issue of the American Journal of Sports Medicine.
"The study proved a direct link between innings pitched in youth and adolescent baseball and serious pitching injuries. It highlights the need for parents and coaches to monitor the amount of pitching for the long-term success and health of these young athletes," lead researcher Glenn S. Fleisig, of the American Sports Medicine Institute in Birmingham, Ala., said in a journal news release.
"It is a tough balancing act for adults to give their young athletes as much opportunity as possible to develop skills and strength without exposing them to increased risk of overuse injury," he noted.
"Based on this study, we recommend that pitchers in high school and younger pitch no more than 100 innings in competition in any calendar year. Some pitchers need to be limited even more, so no pitcher should continue to pitch when fatigued."
The U.S. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases has more about childhood sports injuries and their prevention.