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Repetitive Pitching Can Cause Teens Serious Shoulder Problems

Playing ball year-round is ill-advised, experts say

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 15, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Young athletes who pitch more than 100 balls a week risk developing acromial apophysiolysis, according to research published online Oct. 14 in Radiology.

Johannes Roedl, M.D., Ph.D., of the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, and colleagues looked at records of 2,372 male and female patients, aged 15 to 25. All had undergone magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) between 1998 and 2012 after complaining of shoulder pain. Most were baseball or softball pitchers.

The researchers found that 2.6 percent had pain at the top of the shoulder and incomplete fusion of the acromion. Roedl compared these patients with a similar group without the condition and studied their pitching histories. Throwing more than 100 overhead pitches a week, in training and in games, was a substantial risk factor for developing the condition, he told HealthDay. Of those with the overuse injury, 40 percent said they had pitched more than 100 balls weekly. In the comparison group, just 8 percent had pitched that much. All the injured players laid off pitching for three months. One had surgery; the rest were given nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

MRIs or X-rays were done at least two years later, after the players turned 25. While 86 percent of the players with the overuse injury had incomplete fusion of the acromion, only 4 percent of the healthy players did. More than two-thirds of the overuse group had also suffered rotator cuff tears compared to 29 percent of the others, and the tears were more severe in the overuse group, the study found. The American Sports Medicine Institute says pitchers between 15 and 18 years old shouldn't play more than two games a week and they should limit pitches to 50 a game.

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