By Bryan Stauffer
Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci published an article about a month ago talking about something that I have feared would happen in the game of baseball for a long time: the overuse of young pitchers’ arms.
In his article, he provides a key statistic regarding the number of Tommy John surgeries top-30 high school draft picks have undergone since 2002.
From 2002-09 there were 39 total high school pitchers drafted in the top-30, and five, or 12.8 percent, of them eventually underwent Tommy John surgery.
From 2010-12 there were 16 total pitchers drafted in the top-30, and five, or 31.3 percent, have already been plagued by the prevailing elbow injury.
Regardless if you’re an athletic director or coach for a high school, travel ball team or little league team, the ultimate goal is to win, and sometimes that means doing whatever it takes to reach that goal.
As much as high school and travel ball coaches want to prepare a particular pitcher for the next level, their first priority is to put their present team in the best position to be successful, even if that means continuously using their best arm on the mound.
It seems like a good idea at the time, and without a doubt the kid doing the pitching will say he’s fine, healthy and ready to take the mound whenever the coach needs him to because that’s the nature of a competitor; but, realistically, that’s not the smartest decision and the coach should know this, especially when dealing with an athlete who is still developing physically and possibly has a bright and lengthy future ahead of him.
With the importance of playing travel ball and participating in showcases, high school pitchers are not only grinding for their respective high school programs, but also for multiple other teams and events in the offseason in order to gain recognition and further put their name out there.
Take into account that most of these pitchers throw at least 90 mph, some mid-90s, which only adds to the stress being put on their fragile and vulnerable arms.
For most of these pitchers, unfortunately, their careers are on the decline before they ever really get the chance to peak and reach their potential.
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