Time Out: March 28, 2012

Baseball is the perfect sport to enjoy in perfect weather. There is nothing quite like lacing up your spikes and tossing around a baseball when the sun is shining, the sky is blue and the thermometer pushes past 70 degrees. Especially in March!

You know the high school baseball season is off the ground when the weather begins to turn sunny and warm. Our unprecedented March weather has been a bonanza for area sports coaches with outdoor sports practices the norm, not the exception this spring. After the first day of practice, outfielders on our local teams had shagged more fly balls this spring than they had during the entire preseason before the first game one season ago.

Seventy degree March days come with caution flags. Kids being kids, it’s always difficult to emphasize the importance of starting a preseason slowly, focusing on throwing mechanics and building up arm strength. For a 15-year-old boy, firing the ball at top speed can be a macho sort of thing, and the warm outside air can leave young baseball players feeling invulnerable. When the sun is shining and the air is warm, over throwing is a sure path to an early season sore arm.

Interestingly, a recent study conducted by the Rochester Mayo Clinic in Minnesota concludes that young men playing baseball in warm weather climates are at greater risk of suffering shoulder injuries than their peers living in colder parts of the world. An inverse negative relationship exists between the internal rotation motion and external rotation strength of a boy playing baseball based on the number of months he plays the game each year. Stated simply, the researchers discovered that kids who live in warm climates are at more risk of injury because of excessive time spent pitching in a single calendar year. It’s just common sense.

In many warm-weather states, baseball is a year round activity. Parents often encourage their sons to play the game 12 months of the year playing on traveling teams, sometimes in more than one league. The result; their son’s throwing arms don’t get enough rest.

The bottom line for parents and coaches, says one of the doctors who helped conduct the study is this; chances are your 12-year-old isn’t going to be a hall of fame pitcher, but you can improve his chances by not letting him ruin his arm by too much hard throwing in the early season.