Ask the MSK Expert: The Importance of 'Safe Pitching'


What is 'safe pitching'? What are common overuse pitching-related injuries in baseball and softball and how can they be avoided?

Dr. Richmond says: “’Safe pitching’ focuses on reducing the stress placed on the shoulder and elbow throughout the season. Restricting the number of pitches thrown is a key element in protecting the soft tissue structures of the arm. Evidence also shows that limiting the types of pitches thrown by younger players can help prevent injuries. In general, we recommend gradually introducing secondary pitches as an athlete matures. A generally accepted timeframe is: the changeup at 11-years-old, curveball at 14-years-old, and slider at 18-years old. Appropriate mechanics are also very important to reduce excessive forces placed on the shoulder and elbow.

“Common overuse injuries in baseball and softball include rotator cuff tendinitis (shoulder tendinitis), elbow flexor-pronator strain (elbow tendinitis), and little leaguer’s shoulder or elbow. Little leaguer’s shoulder or elbow is irritation of the growth plate due to the repetitive stress of throwing. Throwing can negatively affect the maturation of the growth centers, which also causes pain and limits function. Fortunately, these conditions often resolve with appropriate rest. If a player feels pain, he or she should stop throwing.

“Also, staying in good physical condition throughout the season helps athletes avoid these types of injuries. Core strength and aerobic fitness are just as important to preventing injury as a strong, flexible shoulder and elbow.”

Physician Spotlight

John M. Richmond, M.D., is a fellowship-trained sports medicine and shoulder surgeon at Tri Rivers. He performs arthroscopic rotator cuff repair and stabilization; shoulder replacement surgery, including reverse shoulder replacement; arthroscopic knee surgery, meniscal surgery and ACL reconstruction; and total knee replacement. He treats bursitis, shoulder impingement, tendon disorders/tears, fractures and instability.

Dr. Richmond sees patients in our North Hills and Slippery Rock offices and at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex. To schedule an appointment with him, or any other Tri Rivers provider, please call 1-866-874-7483 or click here.