In part 2 of our Single Sport vs. Multiple Sport discussion, we provide commentaries from our staff on a great article we found written by sports writer, Jonah Keri called The Tommy John Epidemic: What’s Behind the Rapid Increase of Pitchers Undergoing Elbow Surgery? In the article, the author talks with Dr. Glenn Fleisig who was the research director at the American Sports Medicine Institute and adviser to Little League, USA Baseball, and Major League Baseball. Dr. Fleisig has extensively studied pitch counts and injury rates over his career.
Dr. Fleisig quotes in the article,
“Here, look at this. This is a graph of surgeries done at our center. For a while, there were none in youth leagues or high school. Then they started happening, and trending up. Back in the mid-1990s, 100 percent of our patients were adults. By the time we get to 2010, [the adolescent rate is] pushing 40 percent.
So is this strictly overuse?
Right. We found out that the ones who had surgery tended to be the ones who would throw more than 80 pitches in a game, the ones who pitched more than eight months per year. Again, this was 15- to 20-year-old kids. The pitchers who have surgery were almost always the ones who kept pitching when they were fatigued.
The basic problem is that too much pitching leads to injuries. People ask me all the time, “Is pitching natural?” I would say that excessive pitching, throwing 100 full-effort pitches every fifth day, is not natural.”
We asked our own Hal Wyatt, Certified Athletic Trainer for our high school program and former NFL athletic trainer what he thought about this article. Hal says,
“I think the guy hit it on the head with the identification of the “one sport generation”….I think uncorrected poor mechanics in kids is a contributing factor…in general, kids are not nearly as physically fit today as they were 50 years ago…. then the proliferation of all the travel and all star teams when they’re 10-14 yrs old and they play year round…more stress on more poorly conditioned bodies…bad combination”.
As sports performance and physical therapy specialists to athletes at all levels for over 20 years, we continue to advocate for our young clients to engage in multiple sports throughout the year, appropriate strength training, and adequate “active rest” and recuperation. Not only are you reducing the risk for overuse injuries, but your chances of becoming a better overall athlete increases.
We asked our owner and sports perfomance specialist, Warren Anderson, his thoughts on this topic.
“Even IF a youngster has devoted himself to one sport, like baseball, he or she has to “carve” out time in the calender year for general athletic development , and , at some point appropriate strength training. Some in the medical community use the term “serial pattern overloading”, which basically means if the majority of your training revolves around one movement: i.e throwing, linear running, freestyle swimming, etc. or activity: i.e. volleyball, baseball, swimming, etc. the likelihood of injury raises dramatically. “