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Although baseball is a noncontact sport, serious and sometimes long-term injuries can occur, particularly in younger players. Because young players are still growing, their joints are more vulnerable to stress that is placed on them from overuse and repetition of movement. Elbow and shoulder joints, in particular, are most prone to these types of overuse baseball injuries – referred to as "little league elbow" and "little league shoulder."

Occurring most often in pitchers, little league elbow and little league shoulder can mean the end of a young player's sports career if left untreated. Fortunately, however, there are several ways to prevent these injuries.

Research has shown a direct correlation between the number of pitches thrown and a player's risk for injury. By reducing the number of pitches a player throws (in addition to monitoring and regulating the type of pitch), a coach or trainer can greatly reduce the player's risk for injuring the shoulder or elbow.

Ryan Krupp, M.D., orthopedic surgeon who specializes in sports medicine for adults and children at Norton Sports Health, talks about the cause of overuse shoulder and elbow injuries in baseball and softball players.

View more videos about baseball injuries

The following guidelines are recommended by the USA Baseball Medical & Safety Advisory Committee.

Pitch count limits:

Age Max. pitches/game Max. pitches/week
8 to 10 50 75
11 to 12 75 100
13 to 14 75 125
15 to 16 90 2 game/week
17 to 18 105 2 games/week

Ages for learning types of pitches:

Fastball 8
Change-up 10
Curveball 14
Knuckleball 15
Slider 16
Forkball 16
Splitter 16
Screwball 17

Additionally, it is important that players only pitch for two seasons (at the most). Allowing your child to pitch a third or fourth season will greatly increase the risk for injury.

Young players also need adequate rest in order to prevent overuse baseball injuries. Resting gives the throwing arm an opportunity to recover and recharge. The Little League Baseball Pitching Guidelines recommend at least a 24-hour rest period after each pitching outing.

Your child may have an injury if he/she exhibits signs of pain, fatigue or a decreased range of motion. Lack of participation or a change in performance also may mean an injury has occurred. If after three or four days of rest, the injury persists, contact your Norton Orthopedic Care specialist.

As always, proper equipment and safety precautions should be followed when playing any type of sport.

See an Orthopedic Specialist

For more information about preventing baseball injuries, or to make an appointment with an orthopedic specialist, please call (502) 629-1234.


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