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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Biggest Problem With Baseball Pitching - High Pitch Count & How to Avoid It

By Jack D. Elliott

An ace pitcher is like the golden goose for many high school baseball teams. He can produce a lot of gold or wins if his team uses him properly. However, over use him and you risk serious physical injury to him and/or reduction in the effectiveness in his baseball pitching at the end of the season at a time when you need them to be at their best. Over the last few years, the issue of high pitch counts has come up again and again as ace pitchers are used late in the playoffs to play the 1st and 3rd games of a 3 game playoff series. The desire to win seems to override any concern for the pitcher's health.

Why is this such a health risk to pitchers? The baseball throwing motion is an unnatural motion because you are bringing the arm over the shoulder to throw the baseball. In actuality, an underarm motion is a more natural motion. The over-arm motion puts a large amount of strain on a pitcher's arm. His rotator cuff, elbow, and whole bunch of smaller muscles are put under tremendous stress during each pitching outing. When the pitch counts rise, this creates additional strain on these parts which can lead to serious physical injury.

The challenging issue is how to best address this baseball pitching issue. Here, are a few tips to help ensure your pitcher's safety:

1. Preemptive Strike: Parents should voice their concern to the coach early in the season about high pitch counts. Ideally, a coach would already have his pitchers on pitch counts for their games. Unfortunately, this is more the exception than the rule.

2. Rally Support: Parents should win public support with the other parents throughout the season to make it known that the parents as a whole do not support high pitch counts. Essentially, you want to make it known that winning thru high pitch counts will not be acceptable.

3. Create An Arbitrary 100 Pitch Limit: Parents should not let this be a gray area for pitchers. Parents should voice concerns whenever a pitcher throws more than 100 pitches in a game. This should be raised as an issue every time this occurs in a game and voiced to the coaching staff and the other parents.

4. Encourage Staff Development: Coaches and parents can encourage others to pitch for the team. The development of a pitching rotation will decrease the opportunities for pitchers to get high pitch counts. The reason is simply that the coach will have the ability to put in other pitchers when the pitch counts start to rise.

5. Don't rely on players to make a case: Parents cannot rely on their sons to tell the coach when they are hurting or have thrown too many pitchers. Most competitive high school baseball pitchers will never want to be taken out of a game. They will be caught up in the prospect of trying to win the game and will risk their health in the process. Parents should step in and champion this case for their kids.

6. Treatment During Playoff Runs: High pitch counts tend to become the most significant issue in the playoffs when teams reduce their pitching rotation to put only their best pitchers out there. During this time, parents should make certain pitchers are taking care of their arms. At the very least, pitchers should be icing their arms after every game and not pitch for the next two days when possible. Make you're your team has the appropriate equipment to help sore arms. Proper equipment includes baseball jackets for pitchers and ice wraps. Pitchers should be wearing a jacket over their pitching arm when they are not pitching. Although these steps will not remove the risk of injury, they will help reduce the severity.

Remember high pitch counts are not a situation that has to be tolerated or even required for good baseball pitching. With a little pre-planning by coaches and parents, most high pitch count situations can be avoided or limited. Winning matters, but it really isn't the most important thing.

Jack Elliott, is a former player and fan of the game. To read more tips and techniques like the ones in this article, please click here:

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Hello Baseball Friend,
I welcome any comments or suggestions. If you have a question or a topic that you would like to read about, please leave a comment and I will try to address that topic as soon as I can. Good luck in the coming season!
Have a great day, Nick