A High Price to Play: Louisiana pitchers at risk

Unlimited pitch count causing injuries

WEST MONROE, La. - Many young athletes are taught to play through pain… do anything to win.

But in high school baseball, a sort so deeply-ingrained in Louisiana’s culture, that mentality often leads to injuries, particularly for pitchers.

Coaches and administrators might need to do more to protect their players.

“I mean you play what probably 100 games a year. With high school and summer ball. I mean it's just wear and tear on your arm, every time you get on the mound it puts more pressure and more force on your elbow. It's just bound to tear," says Austin Booth, West Monroe Rebels Pitcher.

This is an issue for high school pitchers like Austin; too much throwing and not enough rest results in injuries.    

"I tore my MCL in my elbow," says Booth. "I took a year off and it was kind of hard, so I'm a big stickler on arm care now. It was something I don't wish upon anybody. Pitching or playing."

Booth’s problem is a problem across the entire sport of baseball.

“It’s been really an epidemic,” says Dr. Sol Graves, Sports Medicine in Monroe. "An overuse injury is someone who's been doing an excessive amount of throwing," says Dr. Graves. "The ligaments are the weak point in the chain so to speak."

He says that so many pitches wear down a player’s elbow, resulting in torn ligaments.

With the trend of youth baseball players competing year round on travel teams, Dr. Graves says he’s seen an increase in these over-use injuries.

42 of the 46 states where baseball is a sanctioned high school sport actually limit pitch counts, but Louisiana is one of the four states without a limit this year.

"I mean it is a definite problem," says Wade Simoneaux, West Monroe Rebels Head Coach. "You got some guys that would do anything to get a win."

Coach Simoneaux says he sees coaches abuse the problem of over pitching and it really is abusing young athletes.

Coach Simoneaux references an opposing pitcher his team faced earlier this season.

"Threw 115 opening night. Already signed a scholarship with LSU. And I mean their dad's up in the stands cheering. You know, I mean holy cow, somebody's gotta have some sense," says Coach Simoneaux. "115 is putting a kid in jeopardy."

Austin Booth is proof of that.    

"We used to have a former coach who would tell us to let it loose, it's just part of the game," says Booth.

The Louisiana High School Athletic Association is attempting to put a stop to overuse injuries by having a limit of 125 pitches next year.

Among those 42 states with a limit, 125 pitches is tied with Ohio and Washington for the highest and is well past the 105 pitch limit recommended for 17-18-year-olds by the American Orthopedic Society of Sports and Medicine.

"I mean that's ridiculous, it's ridiculous. It should be about 150 pitch count per week. If the kids gonna throw twice in a week, 75 and 75 maybe if he has three or four days rest," says Coach Simoneaux.

So how can you or your child prevent an overuse injury from happening both with no rule in place this year and at best questionable limit in the future?

It starts with being aware.

Getting enough rest is just as important as not throwing too many pitches in a game.

Typically three to four days of rest after throwing is ideal, depending on pitch count.     

Also, when practicing, don’t feel like you need to power through any discomfort.

"It's one of those things where as a player you have to know your arm before the coach knows. If you're sore, if you're in pain stop throwing," says Booth.

Booth hopes more players, behind their coaches’ encouragement, will start stopping so that less people will go through the pain he did.

The American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine recommends the following pitch count limits.

Age:           Pitch Limit:

7-8             50       

9-10           75

11-12         85

13-16         95

17-18         105

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