Risk-Prone Pitching Activities and Injuries in Youth Baseball Findings From a National Sample

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Abstract

Background:

There are relatively few published epidemiological studies that have correlated pitching-related risk factors with increased pitching-related arm problems as well as injuries.

Hypothesis:

High pitching volume and limited recovery will lead to arm fatigue, thus placing young pitchers at a greater risk for elbow and shoulder problems and, subsequently, an increased risk for arm injuries.

Study Design:

Cross-sectional study; Level of evidence, 3.

Methods:

A national survey was conducted among 754 youth pitchers (ages 9 to 18 years) who had pitched in organized baseball leagues during the 12 months before the survey. Self-reported risk-prone pitching activities were identified and compared with recommendations by the American Sports Medicine Institute. Relationships between self-reported pitching activities, shoulder and elbow problems, and injuries were assessed using multivariable logistic regression.

Results:

Of the 754 participating pitchers, 43.4% pitched on consecutive days, 30.7% pitched on multiple teams with overlapping seasons, and 19.0% pitched multiple games a day during the 12 months before the study. Pitchers who engaged in these activities had increased risk of pitching-related arm pain (odds ratio [OR] = 2.53, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.14-5.60; OR = 1.85, 95% CI = 1.02-3.38; OR = 1.89, 95% CI = 1.03-3.49, respectively). Nearly 70% of the sample reported throwing curveballs, which was associated with 1.66 (95% CI = 1.09-2.53) greater odds of experiencing arm pain while throwing. Pitching-related arm tiredness and arm pain were associated with increased risk of pitching-related injuries. Specifically, those who often pitched with arm tiredness and arm pain had 7.88 (95% CI = 3.88-15.99) and 7.50 (95% CI = 3.47-16.21) greater odds of pitching-related injury, respectively. However, pitching on a travel baseball club, playing baseball exclusively, or playing catcher were not associated with arm problems.

Conclusion:

The results of this study, along with those of others, reinforce the importance of avoiding risk-prone pitching activities to prevent pitching-related injuries among youth pitchers.

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