Youth baseball can be a very rewarding experience for young participants, parents and coaches. Generally, well-intended people dedicate countless hours to develop and maintain baseball fields, organize schedules, and instruct basic baseball skills. However, most coaches, without a medical background or additional training, may not have the skill and knowledge to provide a healthy and safe environment.
Temple University Sports Medicine Center in Philadelphia offers several health tips for little league baseball. As a former little league coach and umpire and current health professional this information will hopefully assist youth baseball coaches in providing a healthier and safer season.
- Children Are Not Adults: The number one rule to prevent serious injuries in youth baseball is to remember that children are NOT small adults. Therefore, they should not be treated the same way. Their bodies CANNOT take the same amount of stress as an adult because their bodies are still growing and are vulnerable to certain problems. Little league elbow and shoulder are two of the best examples.
- Warm –Up: A warm-up routine is essential prior to stretching. A short jog, two to three laps around the field, will serve to warm up muscles and tendons prior to stretching.
- Stretching: Following a warm up, stretching is essential. Upper body includes: hands behind head, hands behind back, elbow across chest. Lower body includes: Indian sit, hurdle stretch, hamstring stretch lying on back, calf stretch.
- Protective Gear: Coaches should do their best to insure the use of mandatory protective gear (helmet, jockstrap/cup) and encourage the use of optional protective gear (face guard, batter chest protector, mouth guard) depending on age group.
- Pain/Swelling: Coaches should not encourage youngsters to play through pain. Pain and swelling are usually warning signs of injury or a minor problem that can lead to a serious injury. Remember children have growth plates at the ends of their bones that are not fully fused.
- Rest: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends taking at least 3 months off from a youth sport each year. The most important treatment for most sprains and strains in children is rest. It is also the best way to prevent overuse injuries such as little league elbow and throwing shoulder tendonitis. This winter, play indoor soccer.
- Pitch Count: College and professional pitchers DO NOT count innings, nor should little leaguers. Count Pitches 9-10 year olds: 50 per game 75 per week, 1000 per season, 11-12 year olds: 75 per game, 100 per week, 1000 per season, 13-14 year olds: 75 per game, 125 per week, 1000 per season as recommended by the American Journal of Sports Medicine.
- Treatment of Most Minor Injuries in Little League:
- Rest- stop throwing
- Ice – ice packs 15-20 minutes 3-5 times per day
- Compression – compression bandage or sleeve
- Minor Problem - if discovered early, the above treatment may be sufficient.
- Physician Visit – if pain persists for more than a few days, a visit to your family physician is important to determine the extent of the injury.
- Change Position: in minor cases, or following 4-6 weeks of rest, the athlete may continue to play if the player is moved to a position in which very little throwing is required for a pitcher or squatting for a catcher, such as first base or second base.
- Once Healed – involves a slow and gradual return to throwing, at first from short distances, then advancing to 50 pitches from the mound. Focus on mechanics of throwing using the lower body to preserve the arm.
- First Aid Kit: gloves, gauze pads and roll, ace bandages, ice packs, antiseptic, band-aids, CPR mask, cellular phone for 911 call, health index cards for each player with special needs (asthma, diabetes, etc.)
- Summer Safety:
- Hydrate: Make sure players drink plenty of fluids, (water, sports drinks) not soda before and during the game. Also, eat a small healthy meal or snack before a practice or game.
- Practice Cool: Plan early morning or evening practices to avoid the heat. Wear hats, rest often in shade for water breaks, and use sunscreen.
REMEMBER: Kids are not small adults! Keep it light and have FUN!
Visit your doctor regularly and listen to your body.
NEXT MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum” in the Scranton Times-Tribune. Next week read: Little League Coaching Tips – Injury Prevention Part 2.
This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: email@example.com
Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at The Commonwealth Medical College.