By Ken Reed

The American Sports Medicine Institute (ASMI) has called the rise in the number of professional pitchers requiring ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction (“Tommy John surgery”) an epidemic.

Of the greatest concern is the ASMI’s conclusion that pitchers’ elbows are tied to overuse and fatigue in youth and high school baseball.

“Observations by orthopaedic surgeons support this link, as the torn ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in a pro pitcher usually looks like it has worn out over time,” according to an ASMI position statement for Tommy John injuries in baseball pitchers.

ASMI biomechanist Tony Laughlin believes you can’t examine the rise in UCL injuries at the MLB level without also examining what’s taking place in youth baseball.

“There’s a lot going on in youth baseball, where they’re pitching a lot and pitching year-round, where they’re just riding these ligaments into the ground,” says Laughlin. “We want the focus to be for parents and younger kids to give their arms a rest.”

The ASMI released a “Position Statement for Youth Baseball Pitchers,” which included a list of nine recommendations for preventing injuries in youth baseball pitchers.

“With the rise in elbow and shoulder injuries in youth baseball pitchers, the adult community needs to take steps to prevent these injuries,” according to the ASMI position paper. “Research points to overuse as the principle risk factor. Poor pitching mechanics also contribute to injury risk. Another suggested risk factor is poor physical fitness.”

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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