A third reason is that pitchers, who bear the brunt of the injuries, now throw curve balls and sliders at younger ages. Both pitches are associated with arm pain, Metzger said. In the survey, about 75 percent of 14-year-old pitchers said they threw curve balls, while about 6 percent of 15-year-olds said they threw sliders.
So what can young athletes, their parents and coaches do to prevent season-ending injuries?
"Simple rest, cross-training and stretching their throwing arm after they play can honestly prevent a lot of these injuries," Schafer said.
If a player is bothered by pain, by all means rest the arm, Schafer said. When players come back, start out easy. Start throwing at 30 feet, then add 15 feet gradually over the course of several weeks until you're back at 90 feet.
Young athletes should also cross-train by playing a variety of sports. Even if they are determined to become a major leaguer, the strength and skills learned from basketball, soccer or another sport may transfer back to baseball and can help prevent overuse injuries.
A third method of avoiding arm pain is by doing specific stretches to improve range of motion in the shoulder, Metzger said.
Overhead pitching causes the posterior-inferior glenohumeral ligament to toughen and tighten up, limiting range of motion and leaving players vulnerable to cartilage tears, Metzger said.
In his study, pitchers were twice as likely as fielders to have a significant loss in the range of motion, measured by comparing the rotation of the throwing vs. the non-throwing arm. Players with a decreased range of motion were significantly more likely to report pain, according to the study.
About 95 percent of those who did the stretches had improved range of motion over time, while about 65 percent of those who didn't do
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