As we move through the Spring and into Summer many of our Boulder youth athletes are into their competitive baseball seasons. With increased games come increased pitch counts, arm fatigue, and over use injuries. From the literature we know there are some specific risk factors for future arm injury including pitching with a fatigued arm, pitching more than 80 pitches in a game, and pitching more than 8 months a year. Thankfully many of these risk factors are manageable with proper education of athletes, coaches, and parents. One of the debatable risk factors for injury involves utilization of different pitch types and their impact on future arm injury.
Previous authors have studied the biomechanics of different pitches including fastballs, change ups, and curve balls (Fleisig et al.). The authors have not shown increased arm stress during a curveball compared to other pitches. A recent study confirms these findings. Fleisig and colleagues studies 111 healthy pitchers across all levels of baseball from youth to the Minor and Major Leagues. The authors were studied in an indoor biomechanics lab as they threw these 3 different pitch types. The authors concluded a lack of support for the theory that curveballs are more stressful for young pitchers.
It is important to note the analysis involved healthy, non fatigued baseball pitchers with relatively low pitch counts. It is possible the healthy pitchers have modified and corrected known risk factors and/or demonstrate adequate strength and mechanics to avoid injury. Baseball pitchers are encouraged to work with a local PT to address risk factors, pitching mechanics, and muscle imbalances to ensure a successful and healthy end to their baseball season.