As youth baseball season nears, surgeon says stretch, limit pitches to keep arm safe

An Arkansas surgeon recommends stretching and limiting pitch counts to keep arms safe (Photo: CNN)

Spring is almost here and with that comes the return of those old pieces of leather and aluminum sticks that make the game of baseball a staple of that time of year.

But younger kids playing the game aren't waiting for summer to take the field. Many are playing year-round and throwing a ball more in the process.

"Baseball is still America’s game," Kirk Reynolds, an orthopedic surgeon at OrthoArkansas, said.

The more a player throws a ball, according to Reynolds, the greater chance their arm can develop wear and tear.

"One of the common injuries we see with throwing athletes is to their elbow," he said.

Specifically, the ulnar collateral ligament, or UCL, that runs across the inner part of the elbow.

If it tears, pitchers generally wind up getting Tommy John surgery, something that can sideline them for roughly a year.

"The more often you throw, the more often you torque that ligament, the faster it's going to fail," said Reynolds.

He recommends not only developing core and arm strength for both baseball and softball players, but he says leaving a proper amount of time to stretch before taking the hill is ideal.

Playing other sports, he says, creates cross training that can help strengthen muscles that aren't utilized when playing a sport like baseball or softball.

"We want our athletes doing other things,” Reynolds said. "We want them playing football and baseball, we want them playing basketball and soccer. We really like to work on preventing the problem versus treating the problem."

There's also technology out there designed to track pressure put on an arm while throwing.

Major League Baseball also has a chart for the number of pitches certain age groups should throw.

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