The Importance of Pitch Counts in Baseball
Baseball season is in full bloom; from intramural level to major league to everything in between. This season also brings a surge of throwing for youth sports. With this surge of throwing, comes an increase in both shoulder and elbow pain. According to the High School Sports-Related Injury Surveillance Study, the majority of shoulder and elbow injuries occurred in pitchers. Twenty five percent of these injuries resulted in missed time and about eleven percent resulted in season ending injuries.
Due to the high prevalence of chronic overuse injuries experienced by pitchers, it is important to follow specific pitch count guidelines. According to the National Federation of State High Schools, pitchers averaging eighty pitches a game result in being more than four times as likely to need surgery. Pitchers throwing eight months during the year are five times more likely to receive surgery and pitchers who throw until fatigue regularly are thirty six times more likely to need surgery. Along with these statistics, overuse injuries tend to occur most often in the first four weeks of the season, possibly due to poor conditioning in the off season.
A simple pitch count recommended for high school includes: 1-25 pitches requires no day off from pitching, 26-45 requires one day off, 45-60 requires 2 days off, 61-85 requires 3 days off, and 86-110 requires 4 days off. The pitcher should never exceed 110 pitches. Additional measures to prevent shoulder and elbow injury include: watching for signs of fatigue (slower pitching and decreased correct form), avoiding pitching for multiple teams and overlapping baseball seasons, avoiding pitching and playing other positions in the same game, and performing in different sports. This will prevent pitchers from straining one set of specific muscle groups.
Finally and most importantly, pitchers should never pitch through fatigue or pain until being medically evaluated (possibly by a physical therapist). The Physical Therapy and Wellness Institute offers sports conditioning training to decrease the chances of overuse shoulder and elbow injuries especially in the first four weeks of the season. If an injury does occur, our clinics have state of the art equipment to help you return to your full level of pitching prior to injury and help you stay in condition for future seasons.
PTW’s Bill Murrary , DPT is a Staff Physical Therapist at our Hatfield and Harleysville clinics. For an initial evaluation, call Bill at 267.932.9177 today!