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Pitching Injury Statistics and Risk Factors

Here are the statistics on youth baseball pitching injuries:

  • If your child is a pitcher, he/she has about a fifty-fifty chance of experiencing pain in his/her elbow or shoulder during his/her baseball career.
  • 26% of youth players and 58% of high school pitchers in one study experience elbow pain; and
  • 29% of 9- to 19-year-old boys experience shoulder pain (according to one study) and between 32% and 35% in two other studies
  • 38% of high school pitchers experience shoulder pain.
  • Athletes who pitch with a tired arm are 6 times more likely to suffer from elbow pain and 4 more times more likely to have shoulder pain than those who pitch when their arms aren't tired.
  • Roughly half of youth pitchers reports elbow or shoulder pain at least once during the season.
  • For each additional 25 pitches thrown after reaching the 50 pitch count, the percentage of pitchers experiencing pain increases.
  • The risk of shoulder pain is 2 and a half times greater for pitchers who throw more than 75 pitches per game.
  • The risk of elbow pain is 3 1/2 times greater for pitchers throwing more than 600 pitches per season 
  • Youth baseball pitchers who threw curveballs or sliders are at an increased risk of elbow and shoulder pain [Note: while three recent studies suggest that throwing a curveball actually puts less stress on the elbow and shoulder than throwing fastballs, some experts, such as world-reknowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews of the American Sports Medicine Institute (ASMI), still believe throwing curveballs at an early age can be dangerous.  The2011 position statement on overuse injuries issued by the National Athletic Trainers' Association urges "caution" in allowing younger pitchers to throw curveballs. For more on the curve ball debate, click here]. 
  • Pitchers who throw more than 100 innings in a calendar year are 3.5 times more likely to be so seriously injured as to require elbow or shoulder surgery or retirement due to injury.
  • Playing catcher appears to double or triple a pitcher's risk of serious injury [Note: the sample size of the study was not sufficient to establish that this trend was statistically significant].
  • The cumulative risk of serious injury to a pitcher over 10 years is 5%.


Sources:

Lyman S, Fleisig GS, Waterbor JW, et al. Longitudinal study of elbow and shoulder pain in youth baseball pitchers.Med Sci Sports Exerc.2001;33(11):1803-1810.

Lyman S, Fleisig GS, Andrews JR, Osinski ED. Effect of pitch type, pitch count, and pitching mechanics on risk of elbow and shoulder pain in youth baseball pitchers.Am J. Sports Med2002;30(4):463-468.

 

Olsen SJ 2nd, Fleisig GS, Dun S, Loftice J, Andrews JR. Risk factors for shoulder and elbow injuries in adolescent baseball pitchers.Am. J Sports Med. 2006;34(6):905-912.

 

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.

 

Fleisig G, Andrews J, Cutter G, Weber A, Loftice J, McMichael C, Hassel N, Lyman S. Risk of Serious Injury for Young Baseball Pitchers: A 10-Year Prospective Study.Am. J. Sports Med. 2010;20(10): 1-5.

 

Kaplan KM, Jobe FW, Morrey BF, Kaufman KR, Hurd WJ. Comparison of Shoulder Range of Motion, Strength, and Playing Time in Uninjured High School Baseball Pitchers Who Reside in Warm- and Cold-Weather Climates.Am.J Sports Med. 2011; 39(2): 320-328.

 

Shouchen, Dun et. al., A Biomechanical Comparison of Youth Baseball Pitches: Is the Curveball Potentially Harmful?Am.J. Sports Med. 2008;36(4):686-692.

 

Fortenbaugh D, Fleiseg G, Andrews J. Baseball Pitching Biomechanics in Relation to Injury Risk and Performance.Sports Health: A Multidisciplinary Approach 2009;1:314-320.

 

Davis, J.T., et. al. The Effect of Pitching Biomechanics on the Upper Extremity in Youth and Adolescent Baseball Pitchers.Am. J. Sports Med. 2009;37(8):1484-1491.

 

Hyman, Mark, "StudiesShow That the Curveball Isn't Too Stressful for Young Arms,"NewYork Times(July 26, 2009).

 

Posted March 28, 2011

 

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