Back in May, we looked at the worrisome spike in MLB pitchers undergoing “Tommy John” elbow ligament reconstruction surgery. There are several risk factors that place pitchers at risk for shoulder and elbow injuries, but one of the most common is throwing too many pitches with too little rest (overuse).
A new study, published last month in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine, investigated whether MLB pitchers from warm weather areas (like Texas) had higher rates of Tommy John surgery than those from cold weather areas. The results showed that the risk of undergoing Tommy John surgery was 2.3 times higher for pitchers who played high school in warm areas versus cold. The warm weather pitchers also had surgery at a younger age and after fewer MLB seasons than the cold weather pitchers.
Could this be because kids from warmer climates tend to play more year-around baseball than those from colder climates? Are our kids at risk of “throwing out” their arms earlier because warm weather leads to more pitches, increasing their chances of overuse injuries? Since the study did not present specific details on seasons played or innings pitched for these players, we won’t know the answers to these questions until further research is done.
However, this study lends further support to those who advocate for careful monitoring of our young throwers. Players and parents should know the recommended pitch counts and rest intervals published by the American Sports Medicine Institute and Little League Baseball to help reduce the risk of injury.
Dr. Robert U. Hartzler is an orthopedic surgeon, fellowship trained in shoulder and elbow surgery. He treats patients aged 6 years and older for any sports-related injury with a focus on conditions of the shoulder and elbow. His special interests include elbow arthroscopy, arthroscopic shoulder reconstruction, and total shoulder replacement. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Hartzler, please call 210.281.9595.