Training Considerations for Youth Baseball and Softball
Ages 12 and Under
A research review published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine in 2017, entitled “Sport Specialization at an Early Age Can Increase Injury Risk”, not only found a higher rate of injury in those that specialize early, but also found that those who waited to specialize tended to reach higher levels of athletic achievement. Playing multiple sports, especially at younger ages, has clear benefits.
Be careful though. Playing 3-4 sports in the same season is not necessarily beneficial and can, in fact, lead to overuse injuries or burnout. We often see kids (and their well intended parents who let them play 3-4 sports in the same season) in the PT clinic with overuse type injuries (tendonitis, muscle strains, etc.). Pick and choose what you play so as not to over do it.
Strength and conditioning training at this age is helpful, but should be done only under observation with a trainer who is used to working with children. Training at these ages should not focus on traditional “weight lifting” and instead should focus more on the A, B, Cs (Agility, Balance and Coordination).
This age group is a challenge. We see more injuries in the clinic in this age group than any other group of athletes. For baseball players, this is the age when they move to the big diamond. The longer throws in particular can be very taxing on their arms. It is important at this age that athletes get in the gym and start some sort of strength training to help withstand the longer throws. They should also consider working with a coach on throwing mechanics. We often see kids whose poor throwing mechanics become problematic when they move from small diamond to big diamond and have to make longer throws.
Softball field dimensions do not change as much, but this is the age where the female body begins to change and girls are at a higher risk for ACL injury. The hips tend to widen, leaving the knees at an angle that is more susceptible to injury. Strength training programs or even ACL injury prevention programs can help reduce the risk of injury.
This older age group should be involved in a more traditional strength and conditioning program. Be sure, however, that your athlete is working with someone who has experience training “overhead athletes” like baseball or softball players. There are many considerations that should be taken into account with this group. For example, because of the high level of stress that is placed on the front of the shoulder, care should be taken not to overstress the front of the shoulder in the weight room as well.
Another consideration with this group of athletes is that though it is still beneficial to play multiple sports, these athletes should be getting themselves ready for baseball or softball prior to the start of the season. In the northeast, high school tryouts are typically in March and games often begin a week or two later. This is not enough time to prepare the body for high demand activities such as pitching. Athletes should be doing some throwing such as an interval throwing program to prepare themselves along with a strength and conditioning program.
At Complete Game Physical Therapy we help athletes and active individuals of all ages get back to the sports and activities they love without missing valuable playing time or losing their competitive advantage. For more information or to make an appointment call 978-710-7204 or email Greg at firstname.lastname@example.org.