Youth pitching fatigue is a serious problem. Fatigue at any age or skill level can have harmful effects on a pitcher. That’s why it’s so important for coaches and parents to help their young players recognize fatigue and know the risks. Unfortunately, many people aren’t aware of the problems that pitching while fatigued can cause.
Youth Pitching Fatigue May Lower Performance and Increase the Risk of Injury
Pitching is physically demanding, there’s no doubt about that. That’s one of the fun parts about being a pitcher – challenging yourself and honing your skills. However, it also means that a pitcher’s body can get pretty tired.
Fatigue can lead to changes in pitching mechanics. Even a pitcher with efficient mechanics can start to show inefficiencies with fatigue. This is often because they can’t access the strength they need for good mechanics. While pitching instruction can help players increase their strength and stamina, every pitcher, including professionals, eventually hits a “wall” of fatigue where they’re just not as effective as usual. Pitching while fatigued can lower performance, pitching velocity, command, and mechanical efficiency.
However, another potential issue is a higher risk of injury. Fatigued pitching may be a contributing factor to injuries. Studies are still ongoing for how much this contributes to injuries. However, mechanical inefficiencies, like we might see from a worn out player, may put extra stress on the body. Young players may be even more at risk because their bodies are still developing.
Because of the risks of fatigued pitching, parents, coaches, and pitchers should all understand not only what’s at stake, but also look for signs of fatigue from their players.
Measuring Pitch Count, Pitching Velocity, and Pitching Accuracy to Identify Fatigue
Unfortunately, since many coaches and parents don’t realize the risk of pitcher fatigue, it’s common for them to encourage youth pitching athletes to “tough it out” or “finish strong” when they’re tired. Instead, we should be looking for signs of fatigue and helping players understand when it’s time for them to rest.
This is one of the reasons for pitch counts. Pitch count regulations involve taking a pitcher out of a game after a certain number of pitches to help reduce fatigue and the risks of poor performance and potential injury. For example Little League pitchers have a maximum pitch count for different age groups. Players 7 to 8 years old can pitch a maximum of 50 pitches a day, 9 to 10 year olds can pitch 75 a day, 11 to 12 year odds can pitch 85 per day, and 13 to 16 year olds can pitch up to 95 a day. Pitch counts may help keep players from overworking themselves.
However, not every player will have the same fatigue level. So, some players may experience fatigue after different numbers of pitches. In some cases, they may start to get fatigued before they reach the Little League’s maximum pitch counts. Therefore, it’s important to look for other clues of fatigue.
Two things that tend to suffer when a pitcher is fatigued are pitching velocity and accuracy. If a player seems to be throwing slower or missing the strike zone more than normal, it might be time for them to rest. However, not everyone will show these signs and may show other signs that they’re fatigued. Therefore, it’s important to consider each player at an individual level.
Practice May Help Increase Strength and Stamina
With all this worry about fatigue and pitch counts, it’s still important for players to practice regularly. Practice can help build strength, stamina, and skills, which may help reduce the risk of fatigue. Pitching on flat ground can help a player practice in a lower stress environment to build strength. While it’s important to practice on the mound, the slope can also make it hard to slow the arm down, which can put more stress on it. So, make sure young players also practice on flat ground and get the specialized pitching instruction they need for functional strength and arm care.
Science-Based Pitching Instruction for Players of All Ages & Skill Levels
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