Missouri mandating pitch counts for student athletes to help keep young hurlers out of surgery

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Baseball season is underway for student athletes in the metro -- and a new regulation institutes a pitch count.  One metro doctor says he has seen a lot of young pitchers in need of surgery after overthrowing.

“We`re getting more and more scientific evidence demonstrating that the number of pitches thrown especially in one game is correlated with injury,” Dr. Matthew Daggett explained.

Dr. Daggett is an orthopedic surgeon- he often works with athletes with rotator cuff, elbow or biceps injuries thanks to throwing-intensive sports like baseball.

“It`s time to change the dialogue as far as what these increased activities in throwing are doing to our young athletes,” he said.

Dr. Daggett is changing that dialogue- along with a committee of other experts who voted to limit the pitch counts for Missouri high school athletes.

The baseball advisory committee is using the pitch smart requirements suggested by USA Baseball and Major League Baseball. This includes a daily max of 85 for seventh and eighth graders, 95 for freshmen and sophomores, and 105 for juniors and seniors. If they reach that maximum, they should get four days of rest.

“When you’re pitch fatigued or you’re throw fatigued, your chance of injury skyrockets as well,” Dr. Daggett said.

The most common injuries are more of a syndrome, Dr. Daggett says, which can lead to an end of career.

“You get damage to the rotator cuff of the shoulders as well as tears in the labrum and biceps where it attaches,” he said.

And often times by the time an athlete goes to the doctor- it`s too late.

“The damage has been done often times, it`s much easier to treat these things beforehand through education and discussion with parents and athletes about save your child`s arm, take the time off each year, respect and limit your throwing,” Dr. Daggett said.

Anthony Henson, a father of two sons who play baseball, says he likes the idea of pitch counts.

“Pitch them less, shorter innings, and I think they`ll do good long term,” the dad said.

He says luckily his son`s high school coach encourages athletes to take a baseball break and play other sports for a while.

“Let them enjoy life, let them enjoy being a kid, and it`ll all work out fine,” Henson said.

While some critics of pitch counts say athletes can avoid injury if they train properly - many supporters of the restriction say overuse is overuse regardless of who`s pitching.

Softball players so far do not have pitch count restrictions, however, they can also get injuries from overuse. Dr. Daggett says the softball throw is a more natural motion, and doesn't put as much strain on the arm as a baseball pitch.