Guidelines to Avoiding Pitcher’s Arm in Youth Athletes


Playing sports in middle school or high school can have so many positive benefits. There’s the physical benefits of being an athlete, but then there are all of the character-building values that come with being on a team: boosting self-esteem, learning how to be a team player, handling losses while being a good sport, the value of hard work and discipline, and more.

When you’re invested in the game, you want to stay in it for life. Protecting yourself and playing safely is key to staying on the field and continuing to play for years and years.

For pitchers especially, learning good mechanics and getting enough rest are crucial to staying healthy and injury-free. Throwing athletes are especially prone to sports injuries because they’re the most active player on the field. Plus, the pitching motion is one of the most mechanically violent motions in all sports. It’s no wonder pitching injuries are on the rise as pitchers are encouraged to throw faster and harder than ever before.

What is pitcher’s arm?

Pitcher’s arm is a common baseball injury that happens from overuse of the shoulder and elbow. Pain and swelling are symptoms of the repeated stress to the joints, and can lead to limited range of motion and fatigue.

How to practice good pitching mechanics

Good throwing mechanics are fundamental to preventing pitcher’s arm. The pitching motion follows a kinetic chain of events, including:

  • Wind-up
  • Early cocking
  • Late cocking
  • Acceleration
  • Deceleration
  • Follow-through

Five biomechanical pitching parameters protect pitchers from injury:

  • Leading with hips – Do lead with the hips toward home plate.
  • Hand-on-top position – Do keep the hand on top of the ball during early cocking, not under.
  • Arm in throwing position – Do keep the throwing elbow high, do not let it drop.
  • Closed-shoulder position – Do delay the shoulder rotation, throwing with your whole body.
  • Stride foot toward home plate – Do keep the hips closed, and the lead foot directed toward home plate.

Youth pitchers performing three or more of these parameters correctly show less stress on shoulder and elbow and higher pitching efficiency. A sports medicine specialist can evaluate whether your throwing mechanics are healthy.

Reducing the risk pitcher’s arm

Aside from learning good pitching mechanics as soon as possible, there are several more ways to help prevent pitching injuries:

  • Avoid using radar guns, which encourage pitchers to throw harder and faster than is healthy
  • A pitcher should not also be a catcher for their team
  • If a pitcher complains of pain in their elbow or shoulder, discontinue pitching until they are evaluated by a sports medicine physician
  • Inspire youth pitchers to have fun playing baseball and other sports

If you suspect you or your child has a pitching injury, visit an orthopedic specialist who has experience diagnosing and treating common sports injuries. Do not continue playing; this can only prolong the healing process or make the problem worse.