Little League Regulates Pitch Counts

Shawn Gorman wasn't allowed to throw curveballs until high school; his father thought that would protect his arm. His mechanics were a little off.

But sometimes his pitch counts went up to 80, 90 or 100 in AAU and exceeded 100 in high school.

Shawn doesn't think he'll need surgery. A few months ago he started pitching lightly in practice and relearning his mechanics at Poinciana High.

"I take part of the blame for this because he had pitched year-round," Richard Gorman said. "Believe me, he loves pitching. It breaks my heart [that he can't] because I know I'm part of the problem."

Pitching is an unnatural motion that causes stress on bones in the shoulder, arm and back, muscles, tendons and cartilage, even with proper mechanics.

In children whose bodies are not yet developed the distortion that stress causes can affect way their bodies grow. Because of that, for many pitchers, surgery is the only fix.

One of those is former Lake Brantley star John Gast, who was drafted by the Texas Rangers in the fifth round of the Major League Baseball draft last week.

Gast says he played year-round but was never over-pitched. He did have problems with a ligament in his elbow before but said they weren't anything serious. He didn't hear a pop when his elbow started hurting in a game this past season, so he didn't think it would need surgery.

The results of the MRI, which indicated a worn-out ligament in his elbow, shocked him. That was exactly the kind of injury that needed Tommy John surgery -- a surgery that repairs ligaments, mostly in major-league pitchers.

But this is what happens to pitchers, Gast told himself. It's no big deal, he said. Besides, he was going to the best in the business perform his surgery -- Dr. James Andrews of the American Sports Medicine Institute.

"Everything went well," said Sharon Gast, John's mother, a few days after the surgery in which a ligament from John's forearm replaced a torn one in his elbow. "We're optimistic that he's going to come back stronger."

Some do. Most who have the surgery just return to full strength -- which would be perfectly fine with Gast. A few are never the same again.

Nobody argues overpitching isn't a problem. Some just feel this might not be an effective plan by itself.

"They're playing AAU doubleheaders on Sundays," said Mike Marchell, a manager with Dr. Phillips Little League who sat on a picnic bench as his team warmed up for a game. "I got kids who probably played two games yesterday."

"Kids' arms," Marchell said, looking over at his 11- and 12-year-old team, "are not built to play [year-round] at that age. We've got to police it as parents."

Shawn Gorman played year-round since he was a kid. Now he's waiting for a doctor to say he can pitch.

Discuss This Article

Follow your passions

Connect with ACTIVE.COM