LAS VEGAS — Results presented at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Annual Meeting showed youth baseball pitchers may be throwing significantly more total throws and high-effort throws than what is recorded by official scorekeepers.
“There is a need for further investigation to determine the safe number of stressful or pitch-equivalent throws for these young athletes,” Elizabeth P. Wahl, MD, said in her presentation here.
Wahl and colleagues provided 19 Little League Baseball players in the 11- to 12-year-old age bracket with a sensor to wear each time they threw a baseball for the spring 2018 season. The sensor tracked the number of throws, elbow valgus torque, arm speed, arm slot at release, maximum shoulder rotation and high-effort throws. A scorekeeper for each team also collected official pitch counts at each game as per the Little League Baseball regular season pitching guidelines, according to the researchers.
“The pre- and post-season shoulder range of motion in both arms was recorded, and a side-to-side difference was determined,” Wahl said.
She added that players were followed for loss of playing time related to upper extremity discomfort.
Of the 18 players compliant with the sensor, Wahl noted the mean throw count per player was significantly higher based on the sensor compared with mean pitch count per player from the scorekeeper. She also noted players had a significantly higher mean high-effort throw count vs. the official pitch count from the scorekeeper.
Compared with the official guidelines, Wahl said the total throw count for each player was at least two-times and up to 10-times greater.
“Also, the number of high-effort throws ... was higher for every player than the official pitch count,” she said.
Overall, four players had pre-season side-to-side difference in internal rotation greater than 13°. Of this group, two players lost playing time due to upper extremity discomfort, according to Wahl.
“Then post-season, there were four different players with post-season side-to-side difference and internal rotation greater than 13°,” Wahl said. – by Casey Tingle
Wahl EP, et al. Abstract 497. Presented at: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Annual Meeting; March 12-16, 2019; Las Vegas.
Disclosure: Wahl reports no relevant financial disclosures.