Little League Baseball and USA Baseball now have the same pitch limits and required rest periods. The only difference is the USA Basesball/MLB Pitch Smart limits and rest periods depending on the number of pitches thrown are recommendations, while Little League pitch limits are mandatory and must be strictly followed, with each league required to designate a scorekeeper or official to track the pitch counts and to notify umpires when pitchers reach mandatory limits. A violation of the Little League pitch limit and mandatory rest rules may result in a protest of the game and, ultimately, a forfeit.
|Age||Daily Max (Pitches)||Required Rest (Pitches)||Required Rest (Pitches)||Required Rest (Pitches)||Required Rest (Pitches)||Required Rest (Pitches)|
|0 Days||1 Day||2 Days||3 Days||4 Days|
Independent travel baseball
A note of extreme caution to parents of youth baseball pitchers on independent travel and all-star teams competing in independently-operated tournaments: they may have NO rules at all on pitch limits and rest.
Parents also need to understand that if their child plays on mutiple teams, there may be little or no communication between coaches, and it may be up to them to keep track of their child's pitch counts and days off. Otherwise, their child may be at significant risk of an overuse injury to their elbow or shoulder that may require surgery.
"Ultimately," as the USA Baseball/MLB Pitch Smart website notes, "it is the responsibility of the parent and the athlete to ensure that the player follows the guidelines for his age group over the course of the year - given that he will oftentimes play in multiple leagues with different affiliations covering different times of the year."
Recommended limits pitches per year and time off from overhand throwing
USA Baseball/MLB recommend, and Little League Baseball and Dixie Baseball, have adopted the following recommendations regarding number of combined innings thrown and time off from overhand throwing:
Combined Innings Per Year
| Time Off From Throwing
|8 & Under||60||
At least 4 months with at least 2-3 being continuous
|9-12||80||At least 4 months, with at least 2-3 being continuous|
|13-14||100||At least 4 months, with at least 2-3 being continuous|
|15-18||100||At least 4 months, with at least 2-3 being continouus|
* Pitch count limits include only pitches thrown during games and don't include:
- Throws from other positions (Note: Little League bans pitchers from going behind the plate as catchers because of the amount of throwing involved in that position). A new study from the American Sports Medicine Institute seems to provide some preliminary support for that ban, finding, based on limited data, that playing catcher appeared to double or triple a pitcher's risk of injury, although the small number of injured players studied prevented a finding that the risk was significantly significant).
- Instructional pitching during practice pitching. The USA Baseball and MLB Pitch Smart program recommend that pitchers of any age avoid playing catcher while not pitching; and
- Throwing drills, which are important for developing proper mechanics - since poor throwing mechanics have been linked to increased risk of injury - and strength - since poor conditioning also increases the risk of arm injuries.
NATA recommended limits
In its 2011 position statement on overuse injuries,2 the National Athletic Trainers' Association recommends the following limits to reduce the number of pitching injuries in youth baseball:
- Pitchers 9- to 14-years-old: 75 pitches per game, 600 pitches per season, and 2000-3000 per year.
- Pitchers between 15 and 18 years of age: no more than 90 pitches per game, and no more than 2 games per week.
Recommendations routinely ignored
Unfortunately, statistics recently published by Safe Kids International suggest that these recommendations are, all too often, ignored:
- 45% of youth baseball pitchers pitched in a league with no pitch counts;
- 43.5% of youth baseball pitchers pitched on consecutive days
- 30.4% of youth baseball pitchers pitched with multiple teams
- 19% of youth baseball pitchers pitched multiple games in one day; and
- 13.2% of youth baseball pitchers pitched year-round.
1. Fazalare J, Magnussen R, Pedroza A, Kaeding C. Knowledge of and Compliance With Pitch Count Recommendations: A Survey of Youth Baseball Coaches. Sports Health: A Multidisciplinary Approach. published online February 6, 2012. DOI:10.1177/1941738111435632 (accessed February 7, 2012).
2. Valovich McLeod TC, Decoster LC, Loud KJ, Micheli LJ, Parker JT, Sandrey MA, White C. National Athletic Trainers' Association Position Statement: Prevention of Pediatric Overuse Injuries. J Ath. Tr. 2011;46(2):206-220.
Updated October 2, 2015