Baseball: Why Little League rules make so much sense.
Baseball and Softball injuries sent over 100,000 children ages five to fourteen treated to hospital emergency rooms for baseball-related injuries in one year. Baseball also has the highest fatality rate among sports for kids ages five to fourteen (Lawson et al., 2009). Three to four children die from baseball injuries each year, usually from getting hit in the head or chest by errant balls (see also: injury)
The most common injuries, as Little League parents know, are soft tissue strains of the elbow and shoulder, impact injuries that include fractures, most commonly of the ankle, due to sliding, and being hit by a ball, sunburn, and contusions (bruises).
Baseball has some special injuries such as Little League elbow, which occurs from repetitive throwing and can result in pain and tenderness in the elbow. The ability to flex and extend the arm may be limited, but the pain typically occurs after the follow-through of the throw. In addition to pain, pitchers sometimes complain of loss of velocity or decreased endurance and distance.
Safety is improved by using a batting helmet, shin guards, elbow guards, athletic supporters for males, mouth guard, sunscreen, cleats, hat, and detachable “breakaway bases” rather than traditional, stationary ones. Proper conditioning, warm-ups, and pitch counts also improve safety.
Kids who pitch have an increased risk of shoulder and elbow injuries. Studies have reported that there is an increasing rate of injuries and surgery to the shoulder and elbow in young pitchers who are still growing and have open growth plates. This may be from poor pitching form, early introduction of the curve ball, and overuse.
Overuse is the most common problem for these injuries. It has been noted that the kids who get injured in pitching tend to pitch more innings, throw more balls, and pitch more months in a year when compared to the kids who do not get injured. Baseball’s governing bodies—USA Baseball and Little League Baseball—have noted this “epidemic” and made rules to limit the number of pitches thrown in a given week (see the box for details).
Little League Baseball Rules
Pitchers league age 14 and under must adhere to the following rest requirements:
· If a player pitches 66 or more pitches in a day, four calendar days of rest must be observed.
· If a player pitches 51 to 65 pitches in a day, three calendar days of rest must be observed.
· If a player pitches 36 to 50 pitches in a day, two calendar days of rest must be observed.
· If a player pitches 21 to 35 pitches in a day, one calendar day of rest must be observed.
· If a player pitches 1 to 20 pitches in a day, no rest is required.
Pitchers league age 15 to 18 must adhere to the following rest requirements:
· If a player pitches 76 or more pitches in a day, four calendar days of rest must be observed.
· If a player pitches 61 to 75 pitches in a day, three calendar days of rest must be observed.
· If a player pitches 46 to 60 pitches in a day, two calendar days of rest must be observed.
· If a player pitches 31 to 45 pitches in a day, one calendar day of rest must be observed.
· If a player pitches 1 to 30 pitches in a day, no rest is required.
Added to the daily and weekly restrictions on young pitchers, it is also recommended that they do not pitch in competition or showcases for a minimum of four months of each year. Throwing that is not counted in a pitch count should also be limited, but is very hard to count. It is important that the young pitcher avoid excessive warm-ups and playing catcher.
If the young pitcher’s elbow or shoulder is sore, the player may have an injury. It is important to report that soreness to the coach or parents. A good rule of thumb is if the adolescent pitcher requires anti-inflammatory medications, such as aspirin or ibuprofen, or needs to ice after each game, there is an injury that needs to be taken seriously and the player should rest. If the pain does not go away after a few days of rest, then the kid needs to see a doctor.
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