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Go Ahead, it's OK to Teach Kids the Curveball

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  • Go Ahead, it's OK to Teach Kids the Curveball

    Young Arms and Curveballs: A Scientific Twist

    For decades, it has been an article of faith for parents of young pitchers: Do not let them throw curveballs. The reason was simple. Contorting elbows — all in the service of ever more competitive baseball at ever younger ages — puts more strain on the joint than arms can handle.

    But as the research into the biomechanics of pitching has evolved, the debate has grown more robust, and more perplexing. A recent major study shows curveballs pose no greater risk than that of other pitches. And many studies lately have shown that the greatest threat to young arms is not throwing curves but making too many pitches of any kind.

    “Science is banging heads with intuition and gut instinct,” said Glenn Fleisig, the research director of the American Sports Medicine Institute, who has conducted studies on breaking balls and young arms since 1996. “For years, we told people that curveballs were bad. Then we set out to prove it. We did not prove curveballs are safe, but we could not prove they were dangerous.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/12/sp...hing-arms.html

  • #2
    Originally posted by GordonGecko View Post
    Young Arms and Curveballs: A Scientific Twist

    For decades, it has been an article of faith for parents of young pitchers: Do not let them throw curveballs. The reason was simple. Contorting elbows — all in the service of ever more competitive baseball at ever younger ages — puts more strain on the joint than arms can handle.

    But as the research into the biomechanics of pitching has evolved, the debate has grown more robust, and more perplexing. A recent major study shows curveballs pose no greater risk than that of other pitches. And many studies lately have shown that the greatest threat to young arms is not throwing curves but making too many pitches of any kind.

    “Science is banging heads with intuition and gut instinct,” said Glenn Fleisig, the research director of the American Sports Medicine Institute, who has conducted studies on breaking balls and young arms since 1996. “For years, we told people that curveballs were bad. Then we set out to prove it. We did not prove curveballs are safe, but we could not prove they were dangerous.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/12/sp...hing-arms.html
    From the article you cited, you inadvertently failed to include the following (oops, how did that happen?):

    “What we found out in the lab is true,” [Dr. James] Andrews said. “For pitchers with proper mechanics, the force of throwing a curveball is no greater than for a fastball. But that’s not what happens in reality on the baseball field. Many kids don’t have proper mechanics or enough neuromuscular control, or they are fatigued when throwing curveballs. Things break down. [bold and underline added]

    “Those are the kids I’m seeing every day in my operating room.”
    _________________________


    Since youth baseball games are played "in reality".........................
    Last edited by skipper5; 03-11-2012, 09:05 PM.
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    • #3
      My U12 son threw curveballs in one game. Blew the opponents away. They couldnt touch it. He was sore for 2 weeks. We shut down for 2 weeks. Missed our LL home run derby to rest his arm for the play offs.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by skipper5 View Post
        From the article you cited, you inadvertently failed to include the following (oops, how did that happen?):

        “What we found out in the lab is true,” [Dr. James] Andrews said. “For pitchers with proper mechanics, the force of throwing a curveball is no greater than for a fastball. But that’s not what happens in reality on the baseball field. Many kids don’t have proper mechanics or enough neuromuscular control, or they are fatigued when throwing curveballs. Things break down. [bold and underline added]

        “Those are the kids I’m seeing every day in my operating room.”
        _________________________


        Since youth baseball games are played "in reality".........................
        And you, failed, to read beyond that.
        ----------------
        “There was no association between throwing curveballs and injuries or even arm pain,” said Johna Mihalik, who wrote the study. “It was surprising in a sense because of the conventional thinking about curveballs, but we were well aware that the studies by Dr. Andrews and Glenn Fleisig had come to similar conclusions. That’s what fueled our study.”

        Stephen D. Keener, the president and chief executive of Little League International, said that deliberations among youth baseball leaders about banning, by rule, all breaking pitches had led to the commissioning of the study. When the findings did not link curveballs to injury, he said, Little League felt compelled to maintain the status quo.
        --------------

        The point is, it's not so black and white. Curveballs can properly be taught to kids, the most important thing is to watch the pitch count

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        • #5
          First this news is a couple of years old. ASMI already released this information two years ago. LL is just releasing it now.

          But BE CLEAR, it is ok to teach a kid a curve is you know how to properly teach the curve, have the ability to recognize improper mechanics and can spot a change in mechanics due to fatigue. Most dads and LL coaches do not have these three abilities. Even though I did my son never threw more than one curve an inning in LL. He had a knuckle curve with a nasty break based solely on grip and a circle change. Most of the lineup he just threw it by them. It ticked me off when he got cute and hung a curve on a kid he could throw it by.

          If thrown properly the curve is actually less wear and tear than a fastball. There's more quick deceleration in the arm with a fastball. GETTING HITTERS OUT WITH A CURVE DOES NOT MEAN IT'S BEING THROWN MECHANICALLY CORRECT. If you see nothing else in my post see this.

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          • #6
            For years, myself and others have taken the position that the curve itself is not the problem and as the article points out, it is the mechanics involved as kids attempt to throw the curve. Most younger kids "twek" their mechanics in order to try to get more on that pitch. Then, they are in danger of injuries. I refuse to teach the curve to younger players because I can't be on the field with any of them. Besides, why do they need the curve at a very young age? Learning the fastball and change can be extremely valuable later on when they then mature enough to know their mechanics and can then learn the curve. JMHO!
            Granny said Sonny stick to your guns if you believe in something no matter what. Because it's better to be hated for who you are than to be loved for who you're not.

            I am an ex expert. I've done this long enough to know that those who think that they know it all, know nothing.

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            • #7
              I side with CB & tg, however, I do encourage my players on my younger team (12U) to learn it. This after emploring the dangers of the pitch.

              When they are ready mentally to respect the pitch & the process, understand we are not goofing around, understand that each attempt is important, they can begin. I have two that are close to asking.

              The only one that throws an effective breaking ball is my son. I am thankful he is the only one trying at this point (see CB's statement). 1-3 times per inning, than he's done for the day (I only pitch each player an innning or two each game, this is preceded by a long bullpen prior to entering).

              All this being said, pitch count is by far the most important item. That is why I have coached all my players to pitch (on the younger team). At that age, when they have the mechanics down, they can be effective in many games.

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              • #8
                I agree with Cannonball. I can teach a curveball and I tell my kids (11-12 year olds) I WILL teach them - as soon as they master location of their fastball. I want each of my pitchers have to be able to 1. Throw the get me over strike 2. Throw the low away strike 3. Throw the (4 seam) fastball above the hands. Interesting that in all these years of coaching. 30+, I have never had to teach a curve ball to one of my pitchers. I tell my pitchers that strikes win games and base on balls lose games. I do keep track of base on balls and let the kids compete on that stat and not on strike outs. I also watch pitch count closely.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by LAball View Post
                  My U12 son threw curveballs in one game. Blew the opponents away. They couldnt touch it. He was sore for 2 weeks. We shut down for 2 weeks. Missed our LL home run derby to rest his arm for the play offs.
                  My son last year (12U) was taught to throw a curveball correctly and usually can throw 70-80 pitch count with about 15 curveballs and rest 3 days before pitching again.

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                  • #10
                    If you give a young child a toy out of Pandora's toybox, they will play with it.

                    I didn't want my sons to be doing curveball long-toss when I wasn't around.

                    So I prohibited them from throwing curves until their 15th b'day.
                    Last edited by skipper5; 03-12-2012, 06:33 AM.
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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Cannonball View Post
                      For years, myself and others have taken the position that the curve itself is not the problem and as the article points out, it is the mechanics involved as kids attempt to throw the curve. Most younger kids "twek" their mechanics in order to try to get more on that pitch. Then, they are in danger of injuries. I refuse to teach the curve to younger players because I can't be on the field with any of them. Besides, why do they need the curve at a very young age? Learning the fastball and change can be extremely valuable later on when they then mature enough to know their mechanics and can then learn the curve. JMHO!
                      I'm not sure what you mean by "kids tweak their mechanics," and we may be saying the same thing, but in my experience the slider and the cutter are more likely to cause elbow problems (because you get the same supination as with the curveball but at a higher velocity).

                      The thing about the curveball that makes it safe is that it's thrown at a relatively low level of effort.
                      Hitting Coordinator for Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis.

                      I also work with the pitchers who are dealing with injury problems.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by tradosaurus View Post
                        My son last year (12U) was taught to throw a curveball correctly and usually can throw 70-80 pitch count with about 15 curveballs and rest 3 days before pitching again.
                        Define "correctly."
                        Hitting Coordinator for Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis.

                        I also work with the pitchers who are dealing with injury problems.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I teach the cutter with fastball mechanics and so, I want the pitcher to get just a little run on the ball. With finger pressure, imo, it is as safe as a fastball. By "tweking their mechanics," kids tend to elongate their arms causing them to "smap" against their elbow. Ofen to get on top of the ball, they straighten up in their motion and so, don't use their core as well to throw. CO, when you say the curveball is thrown with less effort, I'm trying to envision that. If so, pitchers would telegraph this pitch. I'd have to say that teaching correct arm action with the intent of not telegraphing the pitch is one thing most pitching coaches coach.
                          Granny said Sonny stick to your guns if you believe in something no matter what. Because it's better to be hated for who you are than to be loved for who you're not.

                          I am an ex expert. I've done this long enough to know that those who think that they know it all, know nothing.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Cannonball View Post
                            I teach the cutter with fastball mechanics and so, I want the pitcher to get just a little run on the ball. With finger pressure, imo, it is as safe as a fastball. By "tweking their mechanics," kids tend to elongate their arms causing them to "smap" against their elbow. Ofen to get on top of the ball, they straighten up in their motion and so, don't use their core as well to throw. CO, when you say the curveball is thrown with less effort, I'm trying to envision that. If so, pitchers would telegraph this pitch. I'd have to say that teaching correct arm action with the intent of not telegraphing the pitch is one thing most pitching coaches coach.
                            At the lower levels that we are talking about (e.g. 11U or 12U), the curveball is a show or "hit it if you can" pitch, which is what it should be.

                            Some people call that a little league curveball.

                            Of course, that's a bad term to use because, if you watch the LLWS and watch the velocity differentials between fastballs and breaking balls, you will see that many of the breaking pitches that are thrown in the LLWS are sliders.

                            In general, curveballs are thrown at lower velocities than fastballs, which reduces the stress on the arm. I can throw curveballs all day long, while fastballs wear me out after a while.

                            Of course, part of the lingering confusion is that there's no good definition of a curveball. Some people would classify a slider as a curveball. It doesn't help that some people use the term "breaking ball," which includes the curveball and the slider.

                            I won't teach a cutter to a kid because there's no way, aside from high speed video, to tell if he's getting it to move via finger pressure or supination.
                            Hitting Coordinator for Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis.

                            I also work with the pitchers who are dealing with injury problems.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Cannonball View Post
                              By "tweking their mechanics," kids tend to elongate their arms causing them to "smap" against their elbow.
                              I'm not sure what you mean by this.
                              Hitting Coordinator for Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis.

                              I also work with the pitchers who are dealing with injury problems.

                              Comment

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