By Dev K. Mishra, M.D.
President, Sideline Sports Doc
Clinical Assistant Professor of Orthopedic Surgery, Stanford University
Throw Like A Pro: Dr. James Andrews’ iOS App Hopes To Save Young Arms
• Renowned clinicians Dr. James Andrews and Dr. Kevin Wilk created an app called “Throw Like A Pro” to assist young pitchers in healthy pitching habits
• Proper use of the app has the strong potential to correctly monitor pitching load across multiple teams and private training sessions, and reduce the chance for serious overuse injuries to the shoulder and elbow
This is heavy pitching season for a lot of talented young arms. In our part of the country, a number of outstanding Little League teams have fielded teams that have gone very deep into the annual Little League baseball championships. Not surprisingly, having at least one truly outstanding pitcher is a prerequisite for success.
Many of these young pitchers are talented for sure, but many also rely on multiple sources of coaching and game experience to advance quickly. It’s common for a player to be on an “official” Little League All-Star team and also take private pitching instruction. During the regular season there are likely travel teams too.
The result is often overpitching. We can have a Little League coach follow a pitch count and innings count, but that has no effect on the pitches thrown outside the coach’s watch.
For the player and the parents they find themselves in a tough situation. There is a feeling that success must be achieved as early as possible to have a chance at landing a pro contract or a college baseball offer, and if the young man doesn’t get that early success he’ll be left behind. “Everyone else is doing a league team, travel team, and private instruction, so I need to do it too.” Orthopedic surgeons often hear that explanation when a young pitcher sees us for an injured shoulder or elbow. From their side I can definitely see their point: the very best college programs are now recruiting in middle school.
But the toll extracted physically from the young pitcher can be substantial. We continue to see more serious shoulder and elbow injuries in young pitchers than we did 10 years ago and Dr. James Andrews estimates that 60% of those injuries are from overuse. And therefore they could be preventable.
Dr. Andrews believes very strongly in education for young athletes in hopes of preventing serious injury. He contributes his time, money, and expertise to the STOP Sports Injuries program and recently created an iOS app called “Throw Like A Pro” along with noted rehabilitation specialist Dr. Kevin Wilk.
If you’re the parent of a young pitcher I strongly encourage you to use the app. There are four components to the app: a pitch counter and rest calculator; pre-season prep guide including an exercise regimen; pre-game warmup; and educational component on pitching injuries. I find that the pitch counter and rest calculator are the most valuable parts. If a player and parent actually use this tool it will allow them to keep track of the arm reps across any number of teams or private coaching sessions.
I completely recognize that the pressures are higher than ever to perform better at younger ages. As a parent and young pitcher it might take some courage for you to take a close look and resist the trend to overpitching. But doing so has a very good chance of successfully enjoying the game and competing far longer than you otherwise might.