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Position Statement for Adolescent Baseball Pitchers

Updated April 2013

With the rise in elbow and shoulder injuries in adolescent baseball pitchers, the adult community needs to take steps to prevent these injuries. Research points to overuse as the principle risk factor. Poor pitching mechanics also contribute to injury risk. Another suggested risk factor is poor physical fitness.

Throwing curveballs has been suggested as a risk factor, but the existing research does not support this concern. However, an adolescent pitcher may not have enough physical development, neuromuscular control, and proper coaching instruction to throw a curveball with good mechanics. Throwing curveballs too early may be counter-productive, leading to arm fatigue as well as limiting the youth's ability to master fastball mechanics.

Thus, the recommendations for preventing injuries in adolescent baseball pitchers are:

  1. Watch and respond to signs of fatigue (such as decreased ball velocity, decreased accuracy, upright trunk during pitching, dropped elbow during pitching, or increased time between pitches). If an adolescent pitcher complains of fatigue or looks fatigued, let him rest from pitching and other throwing.
  2. No overhead throwing of any kind for at least 2-3 months per year (4 months is preferred). No competitive baseball pitching for at least 4 months per year.
  3. Do not pitch more than 100 innings in games in any calendar year.
  4. Follow limits for pitch counts and days rest.
  5. Avoid pitching on multiple teams with overlapping seasons.
  6. Learn good throwing mechanics as soon as possible. The first steps should be to learn, in order: 1) basic throwing, 2) fastball pitching, 3) change-up pitching.
  7. Avoid using radar guns.
  8. A pitcher should not also be a catcher for his team. The pitcher-catcher combination results in many throws and may increase the risk of injury.
  9. If a pitcher complains of pain in his elbow or shoulder, discontinue pitching until evaluated by a sports medicine physician. Inspire adolescent pitchers to have fun playing baseball and other sports. Participation and enjoyment of various physical activities will increase the player's athleticism and interest in sports.

Example limits for number of pitches thrown in games

Age 2006 USA Baseball Guidelines 2010 Little League Baseball Regulations
Daily Limits
17-18 N/A 105/day
15-16 N/A 95/day
13-14 75/game 95/day
11-12 75/game 85/day
9-10 50/game 75/day
7-8 N/A 50/day
Weekly Limits
15-18 N/A 31-45 pitches = 1 day rest
46-60 pitches = 2 days rest
61-75 pitches = 3 days rest
76+    pitches = 4 days rest
13-14 125/week; 1000/season; 3000/year 21-35 pitches = 1 day rest
36-50 pitches = 2 days rest
51-65 pitches = 3 days rest
66+    pitches = 4 days rest
11-12 100/week; 1000/season; 3000/year
9-10 75/week; 1000/season; 2000/year
7-8 N/A

For high school pitch count rules by state, click here.

For further discussion on this topic, visit the ASMI Forum.


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