With youth baseball in full swing in the United States, it’s a good time to discuss injuries and injury prevention in the sport. I’ve written many articles outlining some of the ways we might be able to keep young throwers healthy – limiting innings throughout the year, playing on only one team per season, and more. We know that pitching while having arm pain increases the risk for injury, but we don’t really know baseline levels when it comes to arm pain and injuries.
Authors of a study recently published online in the American Journal of Sports Medicine surveyed healthy youth baseball players. They were careful to ask the young athletes to fill out the surveys without input or oversight from their parents or coaches. They excluded surveys filled out by kids in the presence of their parents. Presumably the parents and coaches could discourage them from reporting injuries or pain.
Data on arm pain in youth baseball pitchers
The answers they received when looking at arm pain and factors surrounding that pain, especially because they were healthy players, is somewhat surprising:
• 74% of the players reported on pain with throwing, albeit 44% reported it as “rarely” and 30% as “sometimes.”
• 80% claimed to have had pain day after throwing.
• 55% reported that arm pain has caused them to have less fun while playing.
• 60% felt that arm pain had kept them from being a better player.
• 72% reported that the coach or their parents got frustrated with their play as a result of arm pain.
• Almost half (47%) said that at some point they had been encouraged to keep playing or practicing despite arm pain, and 5% reported that it always occurred.
The authors, including New York Yankees’ team physician Christopher Ahmad, point out that the survey took place during summer league when more competitive athletes play. These findings might not apply to all school-team or youth baseball players.
Regardless, the study gives us information that can help us recognize a problem. A larger percentage of kids pitch and play baseball with arm pain than we would like. Coaches and parents can pay closer attention to the kids and look for signs they are hurting. They can ask kids about pain and hold back from pushing them to play through it.
Given the effects that arm pain had not only on the players’ performance but also on their enjoyment, we need to try to keep young athletes from developing arm pain in the first place.
Makhni EC, Morrow ZS, Luchetti TJ, Mishra-Kalyani PS, Gualtieri AP, Lee RW, Ahmad CS. Arm pain in youth baseball players: A survey of healthy players. American Journal of Sports Medicine. January 2015. 43. 41-46.