We have used pitch counts for years to try to decrease a young baseball pitcher’s risk of shoulder and elbow injury. Is there a better way to predict which kids are at risk for injury?

Predicting which pitchers suffer an elbow injury

Researchers in Japan performed an interesting study looking at ways to predict elbow injuries in young throwers. They published their study and findings recently in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine.

Taiki Yukatake, PT, MSc and a team of researchers devised a 20-item checklist based on risk factors for elbow injuries. They picked the 20 items that parents and coaches could easily and reliably evaluate. The items on the checklist covered four main areas regarding each player – the condition of his elbow, the player’s baseball competition and practice, his pitching form and flexibility. Then six months later, they collected data on injuries among the young players.

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Risk factors for elbow injury in youth pitching

They found that six factors did correlate with pitching injuries. These factors included a history of throwing-related shoulder or elbow injury or pain, being a starter on the team, pitching more than 100 pitches per week, feeling fatigue in the throwing arm frequently, the team practicing four or more times per week and the player training (with the team or on his own) seven days per week.

The authors believe then that the six-item checklist below can not only help parents and coaches recognize kids at risk for injury, but they might also lead to prevention strategies that could actually prevent the injuries from occurring.

The 6-item checklist for predicting elbow injuries in young pitchers

• Have you experienced shoulder or elbow pain while throwing in the preceding 12 months?
• Have you ever experienced a shoulder or elbow injury requiring medical treatment?
• Do you participate in team training 4 or more days per week?
• Do you participate in self-training 7 days per week?
• Are you in the starting lineup?
• Does your pitching arm often feel fatigued while playing baseball?

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Yukutake T, Kuwata M, Yamada Y, Aoyama T. A Preseason Checklist for Predicting Elbow Injury in Little League Baseball Players. Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine, 3(1). 2015.