Apr 18, 2018
Not Adding Up

Nationwide rules limiting pitch counts among high school athletes have not decreased pitching injuries as expected. Wondering why, a team of researchers from the University of Florida recently took a closer look at the issue.

In a cross-sectional study reported on by Orthopedics This Week, the researchers attended varsity high school baseball games for 34 Florida high schools during the 2017 season. The goal was to examine the total number of pitches thrown. Each researcher counted pitches from the mound in the bullpen before the game, warm-ups before the innings, and during the game. Long tossing in the outfield and throws made before warming up in the bullpen weren’t recorded.

The study’s authors hypothesized that despite mandatory pitch counts during games, between 30 to 40 percent of pitches aren’t actually accounted for during outings. Additionally, the researchers expected to see a broad variation within the players’ number of bullpen pitches.

Both of these theories were supported by the study’s results, which were published online by the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine. It showed that 42.4 percent of the 13,769 pitches observed for the study were not accounted for in the pitch count because they were thrown in the bullpen and during warm-ups. The study also showed a wide range in the number of bullpen pitches thrown.

“Our data revealed an unaccounted workload factor of bullpen and warm-up pitches not included in the total pitch count. We also found wide variation in the number of bullpen pitches thrown, making precise determination of pitch volume challenging among high school players,” the study’s authors wrote.

Although injuries weren’t recorded in this observational study, the findings may help explain why injuries haven’t decreased despite advances in monitoring pitch counts. Importantly, much of the prior research on pitching injuries hasn’t included bullpen and warm-up pitches in measuring throwing volume.

“Our study suggests there is a misunderstanding of the workload volume in the high school-aged baseball pitcher. Research has suggested that the occurrence of workload spikes (sudden increased volume relative to regular training volume) significantly increases risk for throwing-related injury,” the researchers wrote.

Image by Staff Sgt. Jocelyn Rich.

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