News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local Interest

July 25, 2008

Count on it: Number of Little League pitches being watched

TERRE HAUTE — If you’ve attended Little League baseball games the past two seasons, you probably are aware that league officials, umpires, managers, coaches, players and fans are all keeping a close eye on pitch counts.

At the North Terre Haute Little League, a mini-scoreboard in the press box displays pitch counts for all the aforementioned. At other area LL parks, pitch counts are announced after every half inning.

If you were unaware, Little League now has instituted 85-pitch limits per day for 11-12 and 10-11 year-old divisions, while a 75-pitch limit is set for 9-10s.

Little League sees itself as “cutting edge” — think Tommy John surgery — by taking a big first step to ward off injuries by limiting its pitchers to a set pitch count limit in league and tournament play.

This initiative began as a two-year pilot program in 2005-06, assisted by experts in the field of pitching injuries. The two key contributors were Dr. James Andrews (medical director) and Dr. Glenn Fleisig (research director) of American Sports Medicine Institute in Birmingham, Ala.

Andrews and Fleisig were mentioned prominently recently in a Sports Illustrated article, combining a feature on San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum and the subject of pitching injuries.

According to Fleisig, the No.1 injury risk for pitchers is overuse. He went on to say that young pitchers who continued to pitch with arm fatigue are 36 times more likely to seriously injured.

Little League has urged all youth baseball programs to adopt a pitch count to protect young pitching arms, according to its website. They also point out, naturally, that other youth baseball programs — Cal Ripken, PONY, etc. — haven’t followed suit.

Note: Cal Ripken and PONY, as Little League did in the past, still use number of innings pitched as a limiting factor.

Has the pitch count initiative helped? Three local Little League officials were questioned as to what they feel the impact of recording pitch counts has accomplished.

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