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Are pitch counts damaging pitchers?


Chimi

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So first, there is this story, http://espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/10936948/tommy-john-surgery-epidemic-worries-bud-selig

 

This morning on Dan Patrick, he had John Smoltz on to talk about this trend of pitchers needing Tommy John Surgery.  He came up with something interesting, at least to why he feels this has become a big problem with modern day pitchers.  He was talking about how with the addition of pitch counts, pitchers went from being finesse pitchers and learning to get batters out to full effort pitchers who just throw as hard as they can because they know they are only going to reach a certain point of the game and be taken out.

 

He used both Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine as example.  He mentioned how their first few years in the league they got destroyed.  But they both had to learn to pitch which in turn made them very successful.  He was saying today's pitchers don't learn to pitch, they go full throttle.  Another thing he brought up was how fast these guys are rushed to the majors.  He says there is very little development in the minor leagues now a days and pitchers are rushed to the majors way too quickly without allowing their bodies to adapt.  He wants to see pitchers build up to 200+ innings in the minors before they are brought up to the majors and expected to take on that type of work load.

 

Pitchers used to throw between 150-200 pitches and well over 200 innings without any problems and risk of injury.  Now they're throwing 100 pitches and blowing out elbows left and right.

 

Anyway, I know we're not doctors and just fans but I thought it was an interesting discussion.

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I don't think you can pinpoint one cause, since I believe it to be a combination of things. The ones you hear the most often associated with the injuries are all credible reasons. 

 

- pitching year round as kid

- strength training to increase velocity

- throwing sliders

- full effort till they hit the pitch count

 

And the biggest factor, in my opinion... the 'awareness' factor. I think the mental side is a huge aspect because the more you think about throwing, the more your likely to have inconsistent mechanics.

 

EDIT: Hell, it's possible the tighter restrictions on banned substances can be a cause as well. Alot harder to recover these days...

Edited by Shane
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i mentioned in another thread that at the memorial for dr. frank jobe, one of his colleagues said that in looking through the current major league roster, there are approximately 30% of pitchers that have had TJ surgery.

 

inside pitch knows a good deal about the pitch count debate, and he and i know a guy who really knows a lot about it. i hope IP will chime in on this one.

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Counting to 100.  Easy

 

With technology, and advancements in coaching.  Coaches should count overthrows, and have a counter for that.  

 

A pitcher throwing max and pretty wild would then have a low pitch count.  But a pitcher throwing within himself, and accurate would have a higher pitch count.

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Shane's first point about kids pitching year round seems to me to have some merit. In the last 25+ years this specialization trend has become prevalent across all sports in the spirit of keeping up. You didn't regularly see this back in the day. Kids played multiple sports more then. I admittedly only have anecdotal evidence but between traveling squads, etc. early on I'm thinking the average 19 year-old has a lot more miles on his arm than a similar prospect a generation ago.

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Some players are getting personal/private lessons while in little league which adds to their wear and tear on their arms beyond teams practices/games. The extra fall ball or kids is compounding their normal rest period as well. This wasn't happening twenty to thirty years ago.

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Smoltz also brought up the kids throwing year around as an issue as well.  He said with travel ball being around, parents are doing whatever they can to make it so their kids can get scholarships or play pro baseball, including making them throw year around to perfect it.  You see 11 and 12 year old kids now a days trying to throw curve balls and sliders.  I'm sure that's not helping at all.

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bigger, stronger, earlier. 

 

there are also some specific mechanics that increase valgus load on the elbow. 

 

the ucl is the main stabilizer for the angle most throw at.  it can only take so much and a series of micro tears will eventually result in a complete tear.  Training regimens have improved and increase strength which increases load.  the earlier you start, the more likely. 

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I don't think you can pinpoint one cause, since I believe it to be a combination of things. The ones you hear the most often associated with the injuries are all credible reasons. 

 

- pitching year round as kid

- strength training to increase velocity

- throwing sliders

- full effort till they hit the pitch count

 

And the biggest factor, in my opinion... the 'awareness' factor. I think the mental side is a huge aspect because the more you think about throwing, the more your likely to have inconsistent mechanics.

 

EDIT: Hell, it's possible the tighter restrictions on banned substances can be a cause as well. Alot harder to recover these days...

 

http://sports.yahoo.com/news/how-zack-greinke-changed-his-approach-to-protect-his-elbow-050003006.html

 In the clubhouse across the way, Zack Greinke has pitched past 2,000 innings. His pitching arm bears no scars. He, too, stands fairly firmly against regrets. Several years ago, when it was still his best pitch, Greinke simply stopped throwing his slider so much. He'd leaned heavily on the slider, even won a Cy Young Award riding it and his fastball, and then he'd go to bed with his elbow feeling somewhat "different," he said, or wake up the next morning that way, and one day decided this wasn't the best way to a long and successful career.

 

Good read.

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Not sure about travel ball, but I coach on a AA and a A Little League team, and while Little League is very strict about pitch counts and days off, the private lesson thing is out of control. There is a facility by me which we use for fundamentals and cages as a team once in a while, but for anyone of the street it's a flat monthly rate. So you could drop your kid there, and he could throw for as long as you leave him there. Had a kid on the team tell me he went for three hours yesterday.

My oldest takes pitching lessons. But it's once a week, max 30 pitches. Not for strength or velocity, but to get good, repeatable mechanics underneath him as a foundation so that he DOESNT hurt himself down the road. But back to the point, these sports training mills are everywhere, and there is no governor on them. I think the few of you above that pointed to year round throwing, and heavy lessons and velocity training, are probably on to something.

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it isnt pitch counts in the majors.. its total pitch counts on the arms.
As someone else said and as i know for a fact having coached little league for years, these issue start long before draft day or they ever put on a ML uniform.

-throwing breaking balls to soon, ive seen kids doing it by 12.

-being overused too young, coaches need to win, they use these kids as often as the rules permit

-winterball... travelball, year round ball... they never get to rest and recouperate.

-multi sport atheltes, a lot of pitchers are asl oquarterbacks.. or play other sports... again, no rest, more wear and tear.

 

i dont think the issues we are seeing in the league today are due to overuse.. noone is throwing an excessive amount every game and they are doing so every 5 days for the most part... its just the final steps on a course that was started 10 years earlier taking its toll.

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i dont think the issues we are seeing in the league today are due to overuse.. noone is throwing an excessive amount every game and they are doing so every 5 days for the most part... its just the final steps on a course that was started 10 years earlier taking its toll.

Well, the original argument was exactly what you stated...they aren't throwing excessive amounts of pitches. But is that hurting pitchers in the long run. They know they are going to be taken out after 100 pitches so they are trying to throw as hard as they can and put forth max effort into every pitch. Is that increased effort and pressure helping damage their elbows?

While I understand the stuff they are doing at a young age now a days, I have a hard time believing teams aren't doing MRIs on these guys as they are coming up to see damage that they may have suffered at a young age.

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