Baseball Continues to Inherit Injury Plagued Pitchers

In July of 2015, a study was released in the American Journal of Sports Medicine that revealed that nearly 60% of Tommy John surgeries in occur in teenage males between the ages of 15 and 19. At the time, the study had a significant impact on the focus of youth pitchers frequently undergoing a surgery that was initially for the Major League pitcher on the backend of his career. Now, four years later, have the statistics surrounding throwing injuries from youth pitchers to the Major League pitchers improved? From our statistics and observations, the answer is no.

Another study, titled “Summative Report on Time Out of Play for Major and Minor League Baseball: An Analysis of 49,955 Injuries From 2011 Through 2016” found that on average, 54,000 days are missed per year from professional pitchers suffering from TJ surgery.

 
Chris Camp Tweet | TJ Surgery #6
 

According to Joe Roegele, baseball writer and analyst for Hardball Times and Fan Graphs, 203 different pitchers who’ve appeared in the MLB this season have had Tommy John Surgery at some point in their career; a new record which surpasses 202 different pitchers in 2018.

 
Roegele. 203 pitchers in 2019.
 

Roegele also points out, in the 2019 MLB Draft, 55 pitchers were drafted who already have had TJ Surgery.

 
2019 MLB Draft | TJ Surgery
 

Also, DVS has extensively studied and worked closely with pitchers in the United Shore Professional Baseball League, a development league for college seniors looking to play professional baseball. In 2016, we found that 27% of pitchers in the USPBL had suffered at least one major throwing arm injury in their career. Similarly, in 2019, we found that 35% of pitchers in the USPBL had previously suffered a major throwing arm injury.

830 pitchers have pitched during the 2019 MLB Season. 203 of them (24%) have had TJ surgery at some point in their career. If the cycle of injuries is to diminish, the solution needs to be fixed within our youth population. Our solution has been to diagnose the risk of the pitching delivery before recommending intent and workload. As the statistics will indicate below, far too many youth pitchers are placing excess demand on the arm on an unsupported mechanical foundation; further leading to the cycle of injuries.

DVS SCORES in youth population

A youth pitcher in our database is a pitcher from Little League to High School. Over the last two years, we have scored over 500 pitchers from across the United States. The average DVS Score for all pitchers is 12.9. When we breakdown the pitchers in categories of risk, we see that almost 50% of all youth pitchers within the last two years grade out as high risk. If you add it to the next category, we see that almost 80% of all youth pitchers are at moderate risk.

 
Table categorizing over 500 youth pitchers in categories of risk

Table categorizing over 500 youth pitchers in categories of risk

 

DVS frequently inherits pitchers seeking out a DVS Score after a throwing injury has occurred. In many cases, the DVS Score is low but the prior demand on the pitcher has been high. The good news: a pitcher doesn't have to stay at high risk and can easily improve his DVS score as long as he has the awareness about the risk factors involved. The video below highlights the same pitcher with two very different uses of his upper body to accelerate the baseball into release.

Pictured Left: DVS Score Evaluation on 5/14/2019. Pictured Right: DVS Score Evaluation from 9/28/2019

Pictured Left: DVS Score Evaluation on 5/14/2019. Pictured Right: DVS Score Evaluation from 9/28/2019

Notice in the eval video, pictured left, the baseball reaches its lowest point behind the throwing elbow compared to the video on the right where it reaches its lowest point behind the throwing shoulder. The video on the right is an example of the torso helping to support the force of throwing shoulder through external rotation and into ball release.

Initially, this pitcher was in the high-risk category and battled frequent arm pain over a year and often was unable to pitch in a game because of ongoing discomfort in his throwing arm. Five months later and having moved into the low-risk category, we have steadily increased his workload/intensity, improved his recovery window, and most importantly, allowed him to enjoy throwing the baseball again.

This pitcher is just one example of thousands that occur each day across the United States. As a youth pitcher or parent of a youth pitcher, we encourage you to get a DVS Score and seek out a local physical therapist that can administer a shoulder and elbow screen and provide further insight into the current functionality of the throwing arm. Before participating in more games, training, and throwing velocity programs, be sure your body, arm, and throwing mechanics are ready to do so.

CONCLUSION

The modern-day professional pitcher is accumulating less professional innings before the event of an injury, missing more days to due to injury, and decreasing their ability to earn the big revenue obtained by staying healthy and proving their value on the field. The modern day youth pitcher is accumulating more innings earlier in their career, training to throw harder throughout the year, and having surgery much earlier in their careers.

From a grass-roots perspective, if our youth pitchers are getting injured more often, having major arm surgery, it’s only logical that each year colleges, independent leagues, and Major League Baseball will inherit an increased percentage of previously injured or high-risk youth pitchers before they start their amateur or professional career.

-JO