6 questions about the big risks of softball pitching


Although fast-pitch softball may be less risky than youth baseball, the potential for injury still exists.

Youth baseball leagues often have fairly strict limits on how many innings pitchers can pitch, or how many pitches a player can throw. But for girls playing fast-pitch softball, such guidelines are rare. One reason is that softball pitchers throw underhand, a motion thought to stress the arm less than the overhand throws seen in baseball.

In a pair of recent studies, sports medicine specialist Matthew V. Smith and his colleagues evaluated more than 100 athletes, ages 14 to 18, to understand the risks faced by softball pitchers. They report their findings in the American Journal of Sports Medicine.

Studying pitchers in highly competitive softball leagues, Smith, associate professor of orthopedics at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and his colleagues found that 40 percent had some type of shoulder or arm injury during the season. And when the researchers looked more closely, they found that part of the reason may be that softball pitchers frequently pitch several games in succession, particularly during tournaments.

Smith’s team recently evaluated pitchers before and during two- and three-day tournaments and found progressive increases in shoulder pain, fatigue, and weakness.

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Source: Washington University of St. Louis
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