Pitch count adherence and injury assessment of youth baseball in South Carolina

J Orthop. 2020 Feb 5;21:62-68. doi: 10.1016/j.jor.2020.01.049. eCollection Sep-Oct 2020.

Abstract

Introduction: Overuse injury in youth overhead athletes remains a concern. The introduction of pitch count guidelines was designed to limit the number of pitches per game. South Carolina is considered a warm weather climate which has been proven to expose overhead athletes to higher risk for injury. The purpose of this study was to detect baseline rates of arm pain and sequelae (injury, surgery, impact on participation) among southern youth baseball/softball players to better counsel players, parents, coaches and league administration on the prevention of arm injury.

Methods: A survey was distributed to 14 pediatric practices within the South Carolina Pediatric Practice Research Network. The 2-page survey included 28 closed-ended and descriptive questions that investigated physical and psychosocial responses during and after play. Additional questions were conducted on adherence and understanding of USA Baseball guidelines and pitch counting behavior.

Results: Two hundred and seventy three surveys were completed by parents of baseball/softball players. The players' average age was 11.6 years, who played on an average of 1.78 teams/leagues for 5.2 months each year. Only 26% of baseball players answered "Sometimes", "Often" or "Always" to their arm hurting. Arm fatigue, older age, parent/coach frustration with play, and months played were statistically significantly associated with arm pain. The survey revealed 58.9% of families were familiar with pitch count guidelines.

Discussion: Arm pain is relatively prevalent among the South Carolina youth baseball community and worse in older players and experience fatigue. This survey found lower percentage of youth overhead athletes experiencing arm discomfort when compared to prior studies. It is important for warm weather climate athletes to abide by guidelines, as they are more susceptible to arm injury. Increased recognition, education and compliance with pitch count guidelines will help protect these youth athletes from overuse injury.

Level of evidence: IV, Descriptive Epidemiology Study.

Keywords: Arm pain; Pitch count; Pitching; Survey study; Youth baseball.