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Young Baseball Players and Sport-Specificity, Training, and Pitch Counts

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  • Young Baseball Players and Sport-Specificity, Training, and Pitch Counts

    Article from Brian Grasso's blog.....

    Pitch Counts and Young Baseball Players

    By Brian Grasso

    * * * * * * *

    I received a TON of questions through my open Q & A yesterday.

    Many folks posted their questions on my blog, while several
    others emailed them to me directly.

    I am going to spend some time answering ALL OF THEM over the next
    few weeks.

    One of the questions that came in yesterday caught my attention:

    * * * * * * *

    First I want to thank you for all the valuable information you provide.

    My question pertains to junior high schoolers and pitching.
    Are there any studies that you know of that have looked into
    number of pitches thrown and arm injuries? What would you
    recommend to a parent who asked you about the relationship
    between pitching at a young age and potential arm injuries?


    * * * * * * *

    Fantastic question and thank you for asking it!

    There have been studies - I believe the most notable ones were
    conducted through the Alabama Sports Medicine Center.

    Let me start by answering your question this way...

    ... Scientific research is fine, great in fact, but it must be
    considered within certain contexts and parameters.

    Research can give us generalizations of findings.

    More importantly, it can't always give us the entire story.

    Dr. Kwame Brown, who you likely know by now, is my 'right hand
    man' when it comes to the International Youth Conditioning
    Association, is forever telling me this...

    ... The danger in scientific research is that very few people
    ever read the entire study.

    And even then, fewer are able to understand the contents from an
    application standpoint.

    It is virtually impossible to say with any conclusion that a
    given young athlete can throw no more than 'x' number of
    pitches in a game.

    Although VERY trainable, a great deal of injury avoidance can be
    found in the genetic make-up of someone.

    For example:

    - Joint Structure (specifically of the shoulder)

    - Muscle and Bone Length

    - Ligament and Tendon Strength

    These are things that are determined at birth and seldom (if
    ever) considered in the scope of the study itself.

    But can be very critical in the whole 'arm injury' consideration.

    Also, there is the whole concept of training and past

    It has been my overwhelming observation (and I have written about
    this many time) that kids who participate recreationally in many
    different sports during their primary growing years, are much
    less prone to overuse and acute injuries.

    This is even more true for kids who also enjoy the luxury of
    free and active play - without the intrusion of coaches who try
    to make the child do 'certain things in certain ways'.

    The combination of this multi-sport exposure and free play
    experience, leads to a very capable young athlete who is both
    mechanically sound (i.e. they move well) and injury resistant.

    Case in point, think back to your own childhood.

    For me, every summer day was spent playing baseball with my
    friends for HOURS.

    There were no coaches telling us about throwing mechanics...

    No instruction on how to turn an effective double play...

    And certainly no pitch counts.

    By my estimations, I must have thrown or pitched a ball between
    1,000 - 1,200 times in a given 5-day week.

    And had NO shoulder injuries to speak of!

    My point is that early sport specificity and over-coaching seem
    to have led to the problems we are seeing in terms of injuries
    and youth sports these days.

    In between playing baseball, me and my friends did all of the

    - Rode our bikes

    - Climbed trees

    - Wrestled

    - Played basketball

    - Ran obstacle courses through playgrounds

    All of these 'free play' activities left us strong, mobility and

    And of course... INJURY RESISTANT.

    In fact, I can't remember any of us ever having to go to see a
    doctor due to sore shoulders, backs, hips or anything else.

    The point of my rather long and winding story , is
    that we are looking too narrowly at what is causing the problem
    and not accounting for the reality of the 'big picture'.

    Kids today specialize in sports early.

    It is all baseball, all the time.

    There is no infusion of basic elements of play and strength
    development that isn't specific to making them a better baseball

    I gave commented on this many, MANY times before, but have no
    problem bringing it up again -

    From the ages of 6 - 16 (or so), the bulk of a child's training
    and sport participation should come in the form of NON-DIRECTED
    LOADS... In fact, as much as 65 - 70%.

    In practicality, that means that nearly 3/4 of the training and
    sports play a child does over a ten year span should be based
    on global and basic development - not specialized and focused.

    The real answer to the question then is simply this -

    Pitch counts would cease to be an issue if kids were allowed to
    (and even coaxed) enjoy multiple activities and participate
    ONLY in training systems that were based on general athletic

    Now, I am a pragmatic kind of guy and although the above point
    is the direction I am trying to take this youth sports crazy
    culture of ours, I also want to give you some guidelines that
    work in the current day model you likely find yourself in.

    Here they are -

    :: Play baseball (or any other sport) seasonally. It cannot be
    a full-year project for kids.

    :: Have the kids play all the positions in a given sport. This
    will serve to increase their athletic ability and also reduce
    the risk of injury in terms of overuse from the constant strain
    of playing the same position day in and day out.

    :: Try to enroll your kids with teams whose coaches understand,
    embrace and ACT ON the whole principle of development. It
    shouldn't be about winning in Little League - it should be about
    learning, having fun and developing skill.

    :: Kids should never be allowed to get to the point of 'technical
    failure' (when their form starts to break down). It is not good
    enough to pull them from a game AT this point, it is necessary
    to pull them from a game BEFORE they get there.

    :: Be proactive. Using the above point, keep pitch counts of
    your young athlete or team and ascertain when they 'look' like
    it's time to switch them up. Do this one or two times, and I
    guarantee you will find the specific pitch count that is
    appropriate for specific young athletes.

    :: Don't work with Trainers who promise quick increases in
    speed, strength or power in short training programs. Training
    is just like school (and SHOULD be just like sport). It is
    monumentally more important to develop skill and understanding
    over time than it is to create quick increases in the short
    term. Making kids faster in the short term is very easy...
    Creating lasting speed improvements that can be applied to sport
    is a complex issue that takes time.

    I truly hope this has helped and thank you sincerely for taking
    the time to ask me your question.

    Do you have a question you want me to answer, ?

    Just go to my blog and post it.

    I will answer it (guaranteed) over the next few weeks.

    Here's the link you need -

    Brian's Blog

    'Till next time,

    MAXX Training - the latest on sports training & athletic performance!

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