Medical Minute 4-6: Preventing Pitching Injuries

By: Casey Taylor Email
By: Casey Taylor Email

High school pitcher Chris Widdup can throw the heat, but it took a toll on his arm.

"Especially when I picked up a baseball. It was throbbing," he said.

Doctors said surgery was his best option.

"What we're finding is that parents are pushing their kids harder. They're starting earlier. They're playing more months of the year. It's leading to more problems," said Joseph Guettler, M.D., Orthopedic Surgeon.

A leading sports medicine specialist says the number of kids in his practice having elbow reconstruction -- or Tommy John surgeries -- is nearly 16 times higher today than compared to the mid-1990's.

"If you injure yourself when you're young, it can have repercussions when you're older. You can develop arthritis. You can develop rotator cuff problems," said Joseph Guettler, M.D.

Researchers from Rush University Medical Center are using high-speed cameras and equipment to study an athlete's arm motion, hoping to develop safer pitching strategies.

For adolescents, doctors say to limit play to 6 to 8 months a year and throw no more than 80 to 100 pitches per game. They say to give the players 4 to 5 days rest between games, and do not allow anyone under the age of 14 to throw a curve ball because they put added strain on the elbow.

Also, contrary to popular belief, softball "windmill" pitching puts twice the stress on the bicep as overhand pitching.

"As an athlete, you push through. You don't just stop," said Missy Beseres.

"There needs to be some restrictions on how much they throw and how often," said Nikhil Verma, M.D., Sports Medicine Specialist.

Surgery fixed Chris's arm, now he knows his limits. He's a player hoping to take his strike zone to the collegiate level.

For more information: Ivanhoe Broadcast News2745 W. Fairbanks Ave.Winter Park, FL 32789http://www.ivanhoe.comJulie Marks, Supervising Producer of Prescription: Healthjmarks@ivanhoe.comDirect Line: (407) 691-1500Viewer Line: (407) 740-0789 ext. 579

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