Little League World Series 2012: Bad Mechanics, Not Curveballs, Cause Injuries

Mike StangerCorrespondent IAugust 23, 2012

SOUTH WILLAMSPORT, PA - AUGUST 23: Pitcher Danny Marzo #12 of the West team from Petaluma, California throws to a batter from the Southwest team from Antonio, Texas the during the first inning of their Little League World Series game on August 23, 2012 in South Willamsport, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

The Little League World Series.

For some, the words conjure up fond memories of their Little League days.

For others, it brings to the surface a foul recollection of a no-hitter ruined because some goofy kid couldn't put forth the effort to catch an easy fly ball to shallow left field.

But I digress.

Unfortunately for an increasingly large amount of children, the bad memories will remain permanent into adulthood, due to arm pain or physical scars from surgery. Theirs is a story known all too well by concerned parents and healthcare professionals.

The debate rages over what to do about too-soon injuries occurring on too-young arms.

Little League baseball has taken measures to reduce the causes, by instituting a mandatory pitch count. 

In some leagues throughout the country, breaking balls have been banned due to the popular belief that more stress is put on the arm by throwing a curve than by tossing a fastball.

Although this may seem intuitive, the research out there doesn't support it.

Studies conducted by the American Sports Medicine Institute and the University of North Carolina have been inconclusive regarding the effects that a breaking ball has on a young arm.

This doesn't necessarily mean that a curveball is good for the arm, but the current science shows no direct causation between pitching injuries and throwing a breaking ball.

Now, some people, including doctors, think that the science is limited. They are still pushing the agenda of eliminating breaking balls from the youth game.

Perhaps this is a wise decision, but what is being lost in all of this is the role of proper mechanics.

If someone isn't throwing the ball properly, the chances of him injuring his arm increases tremendously, regardless of what pitch he is throwing.

Yes, eliminating breaking balls and reducing pitch counts may help because they lessen opportunities for injury. Even one improperly thrown ball, however, can cause severe injury.

It's similar to picking up a heavy box.

Do it one time incorrectly, and you could suffer severe back damage.

Conversely, distribute the weight properly by bending at the knees, and you could lift hundreds of boxes with only a bit of soreness felt afterwards.

A great example of good pitching mechanics versus poor pitching mechanics is that of Greg Maddux and Kerry Wood. Maddux is considered to have good mechanics; Wood is not.

As a result, it is no coincidence that Maddux had a long Hall-of-Fame career while Wood spent a considerable amount of his time on the disabled list.

Regrettably, many Little Little coaches are ill-informed about proper mechanics.

While they should be commended for volunteering their time, their lack of knowledge about good pitching mechanics leaves many young arms in peril.

Indeed, it's long past overdue for youth baseball leagues to start taking the education of their coaches seriously. Before anyone is allowed to send a young boy or girl to the mound, that adult must have a rudimentary understanding of how to teach proper pitching mechanics.

Is this a large endeavor?

Yes. But it's not insurmountable. And the stakes demand it be done.

After all, watching the Little League World Series shouldn't make someone's arm hurt.