CHICAGO, Ill. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — For many high school baseball players, pitching can be the ticket to a full-ride scholarship and eventually a spot on a major league team. But is that kind of pressure forcing them to also put too much pressure on their young bodies? Orthopedic surgeons say while the number of elbow and shoulder injuries in professional baseball pitchers are decreasing, that’s not the case with high school athletes. They’re seeing an alarming rise in “Tommy John surgeries,” named after the first baseball player to undergo the surgery in 1974.
For 18-year-old Ryan Hodgett, baseball pitching isn’t just a way of life … it is his life.
Ryan told Ivanhoe, “I wouldn’t give it up for anything, I mean, no matter many injuries I have I’d still try to come back.”
And Hodgett has already proven that he’ll always make a comeback after he spent a year-and-a-half sidelined by a torn ligament in his elbow that required a “Tommy John surgery.”
Mark Cohen, MD, orthopedic surgeon at Midwest Orthopaedic at Rush University, has been doing the surgery for 22 years.
He said, “When I started, we would see, literally, one a year, two a year. And now sometimes, in the summer, we can see four or five individuals in a given week.”
And those patients are mostly teenagers. Doctor Cohen says the emphasis on year-round training with a win-at-all-cost attitude is putting a strain on the elbows and shoulders of young high school pitchers whose pitch count can reach well over 100 a game.
“If you go above a hundred you’re starting to pitch more than our body is designed to allow,” Doctor Cohen said.
For a while, only eight states had regulations restricting high school pitchers to just 100 to 125 pitches a game, but by the start of the 2017 season all states will be required to regulate pitch counts.
“When you throw the ball, you put a tremendous amount of torque, or stress, on the inside of the elbow,” Cohen said.
Ryan told Ivanhoe, “If my arm starts hurting during a game, I’m pulling myself out immediately, now.”
Each states athletic association will be charged with setting its own specific pitch-count restrictions and the biggest question is … how will pitch counts be enforced? It’s still not clear who will keep track of pitches and whether they will be logged in a public database, but the national federation of state high school athletic associations says they will leave that up to each individual state.
Contributors to this news report include: Jessica Sanchez, Field Producer; Brogan Morris, Assistant Producer; and Tony Dastoli, Editor and Videographer.
HIGH SCHOOL PITCHES: SHOULD THEY COUNT?
BACKGROUND: In 2015, the American Orthopedic Society for Sports medicine conducted a study and discovered that 56.7 percent of Tommy John surgeries had been performed on 15 to 19 year olds between the years 2007-2011. The “Tommy John” surgery was first performed in 1974 by Doctor James Andrews. His first patient, Tommy John, was a former major league pitcher. Andrews is a renowned sports surgeon who performed the surgery on Tommy John, which works to reconstruct the ulnar collateral ligament in the pitcher’s elbow. The surgery was then renamed after the well-known baseball player and grew successful as it allowed the players to continue on with their careers. Due to the rapid increase in elbow and shoulder injuries in high school baseball players, doctors and athletic trainers believe it is imperative for these athletes to slow down the pitching because the injury will only get worse. The young elite athletes are taught to pitch at an even harder and stronger pace in hopes of receiving a college scholarship or potentially going pro. After conducting a series of studies, Midwest Orthopedics at Rush, or MOR, physicians have all concluded that young baseball players pitch too much with not enough time for a full recovery. It is also notable that ten years ago the Tommy John surgery was mainly considered a treatment option for Major League Baseball players, whereas today nearly 60 percent of its patients are between the ages of 15 and 19.
RECENT DISCOVERIES: Doctor Charles Bush-Joseph is the head team physician for the Chicago White Sox and is also the sports medicine specialist at MOR. His most recent discovery explains that improper core and leg strength is a key component in fatigue which can ultimately result in more injuries for pitchers. Another recent discovery is the drastic rise in the Tommy John surgery, MOR researchers and physicians were shocked to discover that more than 50 percent of teenage athletes are undergoing this form of surgery.
- By spring of 2017, the National Federation of State High School Associations will make it mandatory for every state to implement pitch-count limits in an attempt to avoid any more injuries.
- Every state except for Michigan has settled with their own sports medicine advisory committee and will most likely be settling on a specific number of pitches allowed thrown by young baseball players.
- Certain states have already established their limit of pitches allowed. Texas, Alabama, Colorado and Kentucky have all decided on a total of 125 pitches. Minnesota will be using a total of 105 pitches during the season but will increase its number to 115 or 120 in playoffs.
(Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/highschools/high-school-baseball-players-will-be-subject-to-pitch-counts-after-national-mandate/2016/07/19/17ecf53a-4ae9-11e6-90a8-fb84201e0645_story.html )
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