Spring in New England is an exciting time of year for baseball players and coaches.
After a long winter, it feels good to break out the glove oil and play catch with the team.
Just like adults, children need time to accommodate to new activities. It takes time to acclimate to throwing a ball routinely. Reconditioning the body to perform these tasks takes time, focus and knowledge of how young players are most likely to get hurt.
But the beginning of the season is a time when young players are easily injured. The question then is, as a coach or a parent, how can you protect your child against injury and over-training?
Read on for some strategies to keep your kids healthy over the upcoming months.
Don't rush hard throwing. The rotator cuff needs ample time to adjust to high-velocity throwing. Players who throw too hard too early in the season often end up with tendonitis, bursitis or more serious shoulder problems.
As a precautionary measure, high-speed throwing and pitching should not be implemented in practice sessions until two full weeks of the season has passed.
Stay within pitch regulations. Between the ages of 10 and 18, the adolescent skeleton is subjected to a number of bony and structural changes. The nature of sports has changed over the years to become more specialized. Nowadays, many kids need to practice one sport year-round to stand a fighting chance of making a varsity team.
A young skeletal system is always at risk for tendon and bone related injuries. For example, the elbow musculature and bony prominences do not fully mature until the early teenage years.
As a rule of thumb, a child shouldn't throw a curve ball until he is old enough to shave. This also applies to other pitches that involve snapping of the wrist, elbow or shoulder — so stay within the league recommended guidelines — they exist for a reason.
Stock the right equipment. The most notorious misuse of equipment is selecting the wrong bat size. The wrong bat size can result in back and trunk pain as well as cause pain in the extremities. Because kids grow between seasons, coaches and parents should inspect all players' stance and bat choices within a few plate appearances.
Allow extra warm up time in the beginning of the season. Spending a few extra minutes on general body drills and calisthenics certainly has its value. It prepares the kids for the variety of different physical situations they will find themselves in over the coming weeks.
Rotate player positions frequently. This ensures that the player in center field doesn't have to make too many long throws and that the first baseman's arm doesn't get rusty. It helps to round out a player's abilities and gives them a break from the repetition of a regular position.
As the season goes on, players get used to the demands of throwing and hitting. After a month of solid practice, the risk of new-onset training injuries decreases. Follow these tips and you'll keep your players from being designated to a rehab assignment.
I would like to extend a special thanks to all the readers and supporters of this column — today marks the beginning of its fifth year!
Gloucester resident Joe DiVincenzo is a physical therapist and clinical specialist in manual therapy. He writes "On the Mend" weekly. Questions may be submitted to Joe by email at email@example.com.