Poll: Should it be mandatory that pitchers take 2-3 months off every off-season?


#1
  • Yes
  • No

#2

Absolutely. I’ve always held the opinion that the pitching demands on the human body requires a shutdown period of 2-3 months. There are many factors that convince me, in that regard. I’ve coached those that have, and those that have not, and the one’s that have taken that 2-3 months off, fair much better season after season.

The indicators to watch are at the very beginning of a new season. Some pitchers are very inventive about hiding early fatigue and related conditions - all because of they didn’t, or wouldn’t, take the time to allow their bodies to a rest period of 2-3 months. Young pitchers are very good at this - act like nothing is really wrong. I could usually spot the acting gig, you know - “nothing wrong here coach,” … “yep, just sailing along like I’m fresh as a daisy.”

Funny thing about those that pitch, and pitch seriously. It’s all about their ego. Ego is one of the things I look for in a hard nose. Ego is what drives a guy, I mean really drives a guy. “Give me the ball,” is the first thing out of their mouth, along with … " yeah, I got this." But on the flip side is everything that sits below that ego between the ears. That stuff isn’t so easy to convince. I especially get a kick out of watching guys who should have used that 2-3 months wisely. Off-season conditioning, a little R&R, a little mental holiday, even those that put on a little weight around the beltline have a much better chance of bouncing back into the swing of things.

There are two things generally that work for a man, then turn against him as he gets older - for pitchers anyway, and they are age and experience. Age works wonders as far as youth is concerned. Experience works wonders as a learning curve accumulates the ways-n-what-for. On the other hand, as a man gets older, the body usually takes time to catch up to the attitudes, wants and desires of what’s between the ears. Experience usually turns to a limited amount of “what’s left in the bag that works.”

I have found that those that take the time off to relax and rest, heal, reorganize, fair much better into their careers.

I’m not referring here in this posting to the ages of 10 through high school.


#3

Another thing to consider, with mature pitchers anyway, is the delay response to sprains and certain injuries.

For example, have you ever seen someone reach for the small of their back, then slowly bend a bit, or twist from side-to-side? Ask them… " what’s wrong?" You’ll probably get a response like… " oh, I must have sprained my back a few days ago," or something like that. For pitchers, these little things can accumulate during the season that can go below the radar towards the end of the season, shrugged off as nothing much to worry about. Young pitchers, with resilient bodies, will have this attitude more often than not.

Pitchers that compete for well endowed organizations, or, are under the care of a certified Trainer, are monitored pretty good - most of the time. Sprains and minor injuries are addressed when the attention warrants, or some other “flag” pops up and this attention is usually an on going affair. Sprains, muscle aches and pains … then attention… more muscle aches and pains … attention, you get the idea.

However, when the season is over and the attention stops, being left on one’s own to cool down and relax is a serious matter worth pay attention to. Nagging discomfort and even that muscle twinge that just won’t go away are indictors that time is needed to recoup, give the body a chance to do what it does best - regenerate.

The older one gets the more time is needed to pay for mistakes of the past. In that regard, think of the body like a savings account. the more you put into it, the better the interest, and your principle increases. Keep withdrawing and sooner your latter, without replenishment, you’ll be overdrawn. The body’s “overdraft notice” is a painful message to receive. A combination of age and neglect can keep those “overdraft notices” coming, again and again. Youngsters usually ignore those messages, but a few years down the road things change a lot in this regard.


#4

I guess this poll requires some clarification on my part. Are we talking youth pitchers, mature pitchers, or both? For youth pitchers that play spring and fall seasons, are we talking 2-3 months off contiguously or 1-1.5 months broken into two chucks. Is that as good? There seems to be a lot of debate about that.


#5

My only real issue with this discussion is there is usually no separation in the discussion between a youth pitcher, a teenager pitcher or a pro guy. There is also usually no breakdown in level of performance or stress the pitcher was under. There is little in common between a 14 year old soft tosser who throws 20 innings over a summer and a grown man who is throwing 150+ of high velocity innings, then, ships off to off season ball.
For a pro guy or an teenager who is pitching high stress (high velocity) innings and is pitching a lot, yes, there should be time off. For guys who are not accumulating a good number of high stress innings I really don’t see the point.
Time away from the mound is probably good for every pitcher. Time away from throwing/development, probably not so much for someone who is not playing much and needs to improve.


#6

The notion that kids need to pitch or throw year round is nonsense and dangerous.

All the medical and sports literature says it is dangerous and that kids need several (at least 3-4) contiguous (that’s uninterrupted) months each year of no throwing whatsoever. Dr. James Andrews and his colleagues said it in 2008 in their medical study Prevention of Arm Injury in Youth Baseball Pitchers, Kerut, Fleisig & Andrews, J. La. State Med. Soc. (Vol. 160 2008) (I have a copy if anyone wants it). The American Sports Medicine Institute (asmi.org) says it in their Position Statement for Youth Baseball Pitchers, last updated in 2013. And, in 2014, Major League Baseball, responding to a rash of Tommy John surgeries among almost exclusively American MLB pitchers, witnessed the fruit of the American culture of year round baseball and issued Pitch Smart Guidelines for youth pitchers recommending that they “take at least 4 months off from throwing every year, with at least 2-3 of those months being continuous”.

With orthopedic surgeons, medical journals, ASMI, and now even MLB all calling for several contiguous months off each year from throwing for youth pitchers, to argue otherwise is akin to arguing that the earth is flat.


#7

@pcarnette and @fearsomefour made good inroads into breaking this subject down into suitable sub-topics. @south_paw gave his rationale in response, and I’m sure those that actually work with 10-12, 12-14, etc., park & rec., high school JV, varsity, travel, jr college, and so forth can offer insight/opinions.

I’d be very interested in hearing who does what, or opinions, on those sub-topics for those with little or no experience, rookies with some experience, and those that have had considerable experience as amateur pitchers. I’d also be interested in hearing from those that are amateur youth league officials in particular, if they mandate a rest period (off-season) for those involved in season play. In particular, for those that are in areas where the weather is favorable for year round play.


#8

Coach Baker…
There may be a wide berth of differences in different leagues. One of the reasons we chose the travel ball team we did (I was never a big travel ball guy, but, my son wanted to play) was they have (and actually stick to) pretty strict rules in terms of use for pitchers. A pitcher won’t pitch more than once in a day (common to see kids throw one or two innings more than once a day in a tournament setting), kids who pitch to a certain level (pitch count) will either DH or play a position with a low throwing load. Kids cannot pitch and catch on the same day. Their focus was always on FB/CH development as well before any breaking balls were introduced. This usually led to more kids coming to tournaments and less innings of play per kid, parents complained, but, who cares?
One thing that is lacking tremendously in high school level ball is any sort of assessment of a players physical status. Meaning, conditioning of course, but, more importantly to me existing movement pattern problems or weaknesses. Schools don’t have the resources in most cases and (in my experience) most coaches/ADs are not concerned with this. The most beneficial thing I have done for my son was to take him to a good physical therapist before any serious training was started. He was able to identify some physical/imbalance issues he had. Not only did this explain some issues he was having but, once they were addressed, allowed him to train and progress in a much safer fashion.
There is no consistency. I have seen very good, concerned and well centered (care about kids first, wins second) HS coaches and I have argued with a HS JV football coach about putting a kid back in a game who had (to me) obvious concussion symptoms…thus my short career as a HS assistant ended…so it goes.
It does sort of make me smile when I see dads get all excited because their 12 year old is doing “the same workout as the Texas Rangers” or whatever. First, Im sure its not the same. Secondly, I hope its not the same.


#9

In addition to the sources cited in my comment above, I can attest from personal experience coaching youth baseball and youth pitchers that there is a huge correlation between youth pitcher injuries and throwing year round. My son just turned 13, and I have coached him and his teams since he was 5.

Right now, as we are gearing up for spring ball, there are 5 pitchers in his baseball circle alone who have arm injuries, ranging from medial epicondylitis to Tommy John surgery (yes, TJ at 13). These 5 pitchers have different talent levels and throw different pitches at different velocities, but they all do one thing the very same: year round throwing with a few weeks off in the summer and a couple weeks off over Christmas.

12-and-13-and-14-year-olds with wide open growth plates pushing their bodies harder than fully developed men do. A wise sage once said, “They’re not miniature Major League players, don’t treat them like they are.”


#10

I want my guys to take at least 2 off and 3 if possible. On my higher level guys. College and up because of the number of innings.


#11

Every time I hear about the need for youth baseball players to play and throw essentially all year round, I chuckle and think of an interview I read with Tom Glavin, who, in warning about year 'round ball, gave his own example of playing ice hockey 8 months of the year during his youth and baseball only 3 months! :smile:


#12

There is no one answer that covers every player. Players should probably not play year round, but to extend that to prohibit every type of overhead training for every player will have different outcomes for different individuals. It would be nice if ASMI would begin to educate more on first principles of the throwing mechanism and its relation to a player’s physiology, so that parents and coaches could make better decisions about how to train and treat young players. Making general recommendations based on population surveys may improve the outcomes of the population, but not serve some individuals so well.


#13

There is no one answer when it comes to smoking either. Some smoke all their lives without incident, others smoke all their lives and die from lung cancer. The question is, are you going to accept the increased risk that comes from smoking?

Same with throwing year round. Are you going to accept the increased risk that comes from throwing year round? And if so, why? What evidence is there that throwing year round benefits a kid? None. My 13 year old son takes 4-5 months off from throwing each year. He was selected to his Little League All Stars team all four years of eligibility (9, 10, 11, and 12), and is now on the 60-90 diamond, coming off a 5 month break, throwing harder than anyone on his team.

What I would like to really know is the underlying reason - the real reason - anyone would advocate throwing year round for kids. Is it financial? That is, travel team fees or coaching fees? Is it because it’s what he did with his son?


#14

I like the smoking comparison. It demonstrates exactly that individual outcome cannot be predicted from population surveys.

You state that there is no existing evidence that throwing year round is beneficial. This is simply a statement that you cannot know to be true, unless you are able to know of all evidence. It would be a truer statement for you to say that you are not aware of any evidence that year round throwing is beneficial. That is easily believable.

To be clear, I have never advocated year round pitching or even maximal throwing. However, there exist overhand training techniques that are probably beneficial practiced year round.

The tensile strength of tested UCLs from cadavers is known to be less than the force generated from overhand pitching in higher level pitchers. There is thought to be muscular contribution that assists the UCL in stabilizing the joint during the pitch. That is why pitchers should not throw when fatigued. The muscle groups become less able to assist in stabilization. Is there increased risk to the UCL by allowing these muscle groups to decondition for 4 months? Are there overhand training techniques that can strengthen these groups without risking the UCL? What parts of the UCL are vascularized? How does reduced movement of the UCL help with healing given its vascularization level? What treatments and training can best promote healing?

These are the kinds questions that ASMI is uniquely positioned to answer. I think that would be more meaningful to the individual than being instructed to take some time off.

Congratulations on your son’s success. I sincerely hope it continues throughout his entire career.


#15

I like the ASMI comparison. ASMI, as well as Dr. James Andrews and his colleagues in their medical study Prevention of Arm Injury in Youth Baseball Pitchers, Kerut, Fleisig & Andrews, J. La. State Med. Soc. (Vol. 160 2008), as well as Major League Baseball in its just released Pitch Smart Guidelines, have unanimously warned against year round throwing and recommended that youth pitchers take several contiguous months off from throwing every year. If these experts are “uniquely positioned to answer”, as you say, why don’t you accept their answer?

Yes, I state there is no evidence that throwing year round is beneficial. I say that because there is no such evidence. I’ve looked. If there were such evidence, you would cite it, but you don’t, because there isn’t.

According to the CDC, “people who smoke cigarettes are 15 to 30 times more likely to get lung cancer or die from lung cancer than people who do not smoke.” Not guaranteed to get lung cancer, just more likely. After all, as you say, individual outcomes cannot be predicted from population surveys, right? So go ahead and smoke, guys. Oh, and throw year round too!


Do pitchers throw enough during the season?
#16

Frankly, MLB pitchers do this, too. They consistently strength train throughout the off season, but the throwing stops in October (or whenever the season ends), November and most of December for most pitchers.


#17

I agree 100% pitchers need to take time off from throwing every season. How much time is individualized. Age, size, innings throw, pitches/game thrown, soreness/fatigue, mechanics, throwing programs, training programs, diet, sleep routines, all need to be considered. If you have a 14 year-old with poor mechanics, throwing 70 innings a year, throwing year-round, you will run into injuries. I think no matter what every pitcher should have at least 3 months off a mound regardless. And, I think taking 4 months a year off from throwing would be ideal. For instance, if a pitcher’s summer season ends at the end of August, I would reccommend they don’t pick up a baseball again until after Thanksgiving. Let them build their arm speed back up through the new year; a good 6 weeks at least if not 2 months. Then hop on the mound in Feburary.


#18

Won’t say much other than I believe a year round conditioning program is good. I completely agree time away from playing & pitching is good; conditioning and throwing program are neither. I think it is important to continue to build strength & endurance (including the arm) is important & shutting down half the year does neither. Here’s a link to a story which includes thoughts of some pretty impressive pitchers & coaches. Enjoy!


#19

Sorry, forgot the link last post


#20

Well said Pitcher17,
I am sure there are kids out there who are 13 and play in 4 leagues a year plus travel ball. I would hope this has become less common. I think kids should really play multiple sports and be into other things besides baseball/pitching up until maybe the last year of high school, if even then. I agree 100% that a conditioning program is a vital thing that is missing with many kids that have issues. For every kid I have seen that has a dead, sore or injured arm from overuse I have seen one with ongoing issues because they are weak, not prepared and don’t condition their arm.
It is a balance.