Advice to Young Pitchers and Parents
Twenty-one year-old Miami Marlins ace pitcher Jose Fernandez unfortunately appears like he could be the next victim of Tommy John surgery.
The reigning National League Rookie of the Year winner went on the disabled list Monday with elbow inflammation and people within baseball are expecting Tommy John to be needed.
Tommy John is needed when their is damage to the ulnar collateral ligament in the elbow.
Fernandez would join young aces Matt Moore (Rays), Patrick Corbin (Diamondbacks), Matt Harvey (Mets), Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy (Braves) as just some of the brightest arms in baseball to require the procedure just this season.
Shaker High School graduate and top draft prospect Jeff Hoffman of East Carolina will need the surgery this week. He'll miss the rest of the season, and could see his draft stock fall as a result.
Earlier in the year, Dr. James Andrews, the guru of athletic injuries and treatment, spoke earlier on the MLB Network Radio Network on the rash of elbow injuries.
If you didn't listen -- you should. No one really knows why UCL damage occurs, but several factors can hurt the arm of a young pitcher. I don't claim to be a doctor. I'm going off of Andrews, and my own experiences of having been a high school and college pitcher, as well as a collegiate pitching coach. Tommy John is no longer the death sentence that it used to be for a pitcher, but regardless, kids love to play the game. The last thing they want is to miss entire seasons, especially once they do make it to the college or pro level.
1. If you (or your child) throws very hard at a young age, you need to monitor total innings in a game or a season. The young arm is not fully developed. If a kid throws harder than his arm is built to do, and does it repeatedly, you are setting yourself up for potential damage in the future.
2. You need a defined offseason. Everyone loves the feeling of staying sharp, getting better, and playing all year round, but you need to take time off. The body needs to recover, and the arm is no different. If you play a second sport, that's good, because it takes you away from the field or the indoor tunnels of the world. If you don't play another sport, take time away, workout, run, anything other than throw.
3. After you pitch, limit your playing of another position. This is tough for young kids and younger teams. With 10-12 person rosters often, you don't have the luxury of sitting out after you pitch and not overthrowing. But if you can play first base or right field, or somewhere where there is not a lot of throwing required, do it. It will only help you in the future.
4. Get on a developed routine. Once you do pitch, you need to work hard to get the arm ready for the next time you throw. Run immediately following your outing and start to get yourself prepared for the next time out. Especially if you are at the high school or college levels.
5. Limit your use of breaking balls. Again, the young arm is not fully developed. Little league has taken the steps to get rid of the curveball. But as you get older, learn to pitch off your fastball. Don't rely on a slider or curveball, it's not good for you at a young age.
Again, I don't claim to be a doctor, just a pitcher who hates seeing those who love the position I do victimized by Tommy John.