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Tips from the Top on Keeping Your Young Pitchers’ Shoulders and Elbows Healthy

Photo: Flickr CC by CaptPiper

Photo: Flickr CC by CaptPiper

The famous sports medicine doctor, James Andrews MD, recently released a new book, “Any Given Monday.” He offers us interesting tips and advice on how to prevent injuries on our young pitchers’ shoulders and elbows.

Yesterday, I had the chance to speak with WAKR’s host Ray Horner about this topic and share some of his tips.

Below is a transcript and embedded audio player of our discussion.

Horner: Dr. Joe Congeni joins us from Sports Medicine Center at Akron Children’s Hospital. It’s the pitching season, Joe.

Dr. Congeni: Yeah, it may not feel like the pitching season, Ray, but it’s getting close and eventually spring has to get here, doesn’t it?

Horner: Yeah, I hope. Yes.

Dr. Congeni: I hope so. I did want to mention a few things about pitchers. You and I talk about it a lot, but I wanted to make a few comments on the book that Dr. James Andrews just came out with. He’s a very, very famous sports medicine doctor; probably the world’s most famous. He has a book called, “Any Given Monday,” and they had a bunch of excerpts in the Plain Dealer a couple of weeks ago, and I wanted to give his perspective.

You and I have talked about what you can do to keep your pitcher from getting injured. And you know that I always say, and Andrews agreed with it, too, one thing is to take at least one season of the year off. Take at least three months off. You and I say that all the time, and every winter I still see kids who throw all winter and they break down [their] shoulders or elbows.

Dr. Joe Congeni

Dr. Joe Congeni

That was one thing he said. He also talked about how important mechanics were, and we talk about that, too. But, Andrews talked about two other things that I thought were pretty interesting.

No. 3, he said to avoid the radar gun at a young age. He said that many kids, now even as young as age 13 and 14, are getting on the radar gun. There’s significant issues as kids try to throw harder and harder in front of the radar gun. We [want] them throwing with proper mechanics and commanding the strike zone — throwing the ball where they want to throw it — instead of trying to throw it as hard as they possibly can. So, he said, avoid the radar gun.

No. 4, he said to be really careful and avoid the showcases. There’s a big thing that goes on with kids as they get to be 15, 16, 17 [called] pitchers showcases, where a bunch of scouts and college coaches will get together. Kids go to these showcases. Many times, they’ll go to several in a month, and these showcases are not good for the shoulder. Andrews actually calls them, in his book, “show-off cases” for parents to feel good about themselves because their son got invited.

So, stay away from the showcases, avoid the radar gun, don’t pitch year-round. These are the couple of the things that Andrews said about trying to keep your kids’ elbows and shoulders safe.

Horner: Yeah, and Rocco, asked me about teaching him to throw a screwball yesterday, and I said no on that, as well (laughter).

Dr. Congeni: Now, I do have to admit that Andrews, in the book and in the excerpts, did talk about curve balls. And you’ve heard the back and forth — you and I have talked about that, too — is whether curve balls are involved at all.

The fact is, he says, that when the mechanics are really good, the curve ball isn’t that much more strain on the shoulder or elbow. The problem is over 80 percent of young pitchers don’t have good mechanics when they try to throw the curve ball, and that’s where they get into problems.

Horner: Very good, point, Joe. As always, thank you for the insight, my friend. We’ll catch up with you next week.

Dr. Congeni: Okay, Ray. Have a great week.

Horner: You too.

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About Dr. Joe Congeni - Director of Sports Medicine

Dr. Joe Congeni is the Director, Sports Medicine; Clinical Co-Director, Center for Orthopedics and Sports Medicine at Akron Children's Hospital. For the past 25 years, Dr. Congeni has been the “go to” source for national and local media looking for information about pediatric sports medicine.

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