In 2007 Little League Baseball dropped its decades-old pitching rules - which limited pitchers age 12 and under to six innings per week and six innings per game, with the number of innings increasing for older age groups - in favor of rules based on pitch count. The number of allowable pitches was based on the pitcher's age and the rules now mandate specific rest periods between pitching appearances when a pitcher reaches higher thresholds of pitches delivered in a day. [For a summary of the new rules, click here]
The new rules were hailed by Dr. James Andrews, medical director of the American Sports Medicine Institute in Birmingham, Alabama and perhaps the world's foremost authority on pitching injuries and so-called "Tommy John" elbow reconstructive surgery, as the "most important injury prevention step ever initiated in youth baseball - certain to serve as the youth sports injury prevention cornerstone and inspiration for other youth organizations to take the initiative to get serious about injury prevention in youth sports."
In announcing the new pitch count rule in 2006, the first by a national youth baseball organization, Little League's president and CEO, Stephen D. Keener, called "upon all youth baseball organizations, including travel leagues, to implement their own pitch count programs in the interest of protecting young pitching arms."
The new pitch count rule followed on the heels of Little League's adoption of a new rule, now fully implemented, mandating the use of breakaway bases.
Little League did not institute a ban on curve balls, and, in light of new research suggesting that the pitch does not, contrary to conventional wisdom, put more strain on a young pitcher's elbow than other pitches (indeed, the research suggests curveballs place less stress on the elbow than a fastball), was perhaps correct in not doing so.
For 2010, Little League has revised its pitch limit and mandatory rest rules in its continuing effort to protect the arms of young pitchers. For an article on the new, updated rules, click here.
Revised and updated March 3, 2010