We are all looking for a solution to the escalation of youth baseball injuries, which is near epidemic proportions. The Pitch Smart program is a product of Major League Baseball and USA Baseball. The organizations have teamed up to help young baseball players reduce arm injuries by providing a comprehensive resource for safe pitching practices.
Bud Selig, the now retired commissioner of Major League Baseball (MLB), was the catalyst to get the program moving forward. The MLB realized that if something was not done to curtail the epidemic of arm injuries, then there would be no uninjured players coming from high school or college left for the MLB draft. When Rob Manfred took over as MLB commissioner, he made Pitch Smart one of his major objectives as a national initiative.
The Pitch Smart program was initially headed up by Bert Mandelbaum, MD, and later by Gary Green, MD, the medical director of MLB. An advisory committee was developed and is comprised of John DeAngelo (MLB); Steve Fealy, MD (orthopedic consultant to the MLB Players Association); Jan Fronek, MD (San Diego Padres); Keith Dugger, ATC (Colorado Rockies); Stan Conte, ATC, DPT, PhD (Los Angeles Dodgers); Anthony A. Romeo, MD (Chicago White Sox); Christopher S. Ahmad, MD (New York Yankees); James R. Andrews, MD (Tampa Bay Rays); Michael G. Ciccotti, MD (Philadelphia Phillies); Neal S. ElAttrache, MD (Los Angeles Dodgers); and Glenn S. Fleisig, PhD (American Sports Medicine Institute).
The result of this initiative is a comprehensive resource for safe pitching practices which provides a series of practical, age-appropriate guidelines to help young players, parents and coaches avoid overuse injuries. The solution for controlling injuries is to educate the public and encourage a change in behavior of players, parents, grandparents and coaches at all levels.
Pitch Smart has already made recommendations on pitch count limits and required rest for various youth players from 7 years to 18 years old. USA Baseball, as the national governing body of baseball, and Paul Seiler, its CEO, are perfect partners to work with MLB to carry a “big stick” to get out the prevention message.
A number of youth baseball organizations have already become collaborating partners to curtail injuries. Support from various youth baseball organizations, high school federations, independent leagues, tournaments and showcases is critical for success.
All of the youth organizations touched by Pitch Smart acknowledge there is a problem and admit we have been remiss for a long time about the prevention of injuries in youth baseball. Now the time is right for all orthopedic surgeons who are involved in baseball to get behind the program and do something about overuse throwing arm injuries.
James R. Andrews, MD, is a founding partner and medical director of the Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine in Gulf Breeze, Fla. He also is a co-founder of the American Sports Medicine Institute in Birmingham, Ala. He can be reached at the Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, 1040 Gulf Breeze Pkwy., Suite 203, Gulf Breeze, FL 32561; email: email@example.com.