Our bodies are designed to do many things, but throwing overhand isn’t one of them. Yet every day we see athletes doing just that. In fact, this summer we watched a thirteen-year-old pitcher captivate the country during the Little League World Series. Mo’ne Davis became the first girl to pitch a complete game shut- out in Little League World Series history. In addition to her record-setting performance, Davis also illuminates several sports lessons that any young athlete can benefit from.
Shoulder injuries, like elbow injuries, are frequently the result of overuse and misaligned mechanics. The unnatural motion of overhand throwing places strain on your shoulder, and that strain turns quickly into injury when the throwing activity occurs too young (prior to proper muscle formation), too often (repetitions), or with too little rest.
To protect young arms from overuse, Little League Youth Baseball uses strict pitch counts that limit the maximum number of pitches a pitcher can throw (85 total pitches for 13-year-olds) and sets mandatory rest periods corresponding to the number of pitches thrown (e.g. 85 pitch outing requires four days of rest, 65 pitches require three days’ rest).
However, other forms of injury protection can be achieved by position and sport rotation. Although Mo’ne Davis set a record for pitching, we saw her play in the infield and outfield – providing her biomechanics the necessary rest and diversification. In addition, we learned that baseball isn’t her only sport. In fact, Davis shared that baseball is likely her number three sport behind basketball and soccer.
Multi-sport diversification reduces sport and/or motion fatigue while actually building up other body muscles. Year-round sport specialization frequently increases muscle and joint overuse and leads to injury. Single sport specialization often is the most direct path to visiting a medical specialist’s office. But for kids who are committed to competing in one sport, remember these three “Rs” to minimize the risk of injury: ROTATE your workouts, REST between games and don’t overdo your REPETITIONS.