MLB Launches 'Pitch Smart' Initiative for Youth Baseball Pitchers
On Wednesday, Major League Baseball debuted its "Pitch Smart" initiative, which aims to preserve the arms of young baseball pitchers by limiting the number of pitches they throw on a day-to-day basis.
An advisory committee of 12 experts, including renowned sports surgeon Dr. James Andrews, Dr. Glenn Fleisig of the American Sports Medicine Institute and team physicians from the Philadelphia Phillies, New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago White Sox, among others, produced a set of recommendations for pitchers at each age level. It includes a daily maximum for pitches for youths at each level, along with the recommended amount of required rest for those pitchers based on how many times they threw the ball during their previous outing.
Here's a look at the guidelines for each age level:
"We did some extensive research," said Joe Torre, MLB executive vice president of baseball operations, in a statement. "We consulted experts in the medical field. It aims to address this issue from the ground floor.
"For the first time, our industry is going to make recommendations on all the various issues associated with elbow injuries. We feel very comfortable and confident that Pitch Smart will lead us in the right direction."
The Pitch Smart website includes a tab of risk factors that can lead to injuries among youth pitchers, including pitching while fatigued and throwing too many innings over the course of a year. The recommendations suggest taking at least four months off per year from competitive pitching, and limiting pitchers to no more than 100 innings annually. Radar gun use, throwing curveballs and sliders at a young age, and playing for multiple teams at the same time were all also considered risk factors.
Earlier this year, Andrews spoke out on MLB Network Radio's "Power Alley" against year-round baseball for youths, suggesting it was the No. 1 cause for the rise in pitchers at all levels needing Tommy John surgery.
"These kids are not just throwing year-round, they're competing year-round, and they don't have any time for recovery," Andrews said. He also cited "playing in more than one league at the same time where rules don't count [i.e., pitchers aren't placed on pitch counts or inning limits]" as a major concern.
It appears as though MLB heard his message loud and clear, based on the recommendations in the Pitch Smart initiative. And frankly, given the rise in ulterior cruciate ligament injuries in recent years—back in 2008, Andrews told the Houston Chronicle that he had seen a seven-fold increase in the number of youth pitchers requiring Tommy John surgery in the past decade—MLB's new guidelines don't come a moment too soon.
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