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High school pitches: Should they count?

CHICAGO, Ill. (Ivanhoe Newswire) – For many high school baseball players, pitching can be the ticket to a full-ride scholarship and eventually a spot on a major league team. But is that kind of pressure forcing them to also put too much pressure on their young bodies? Orthopedic surgeons say while the number of elbow and shoulder injuries in professional baseball pitchers are decreasing, that’s not the case with high school athletes. They’re seeing an alarming rise in “Tommy John surgeries,” named after the first baseball player to undergo the surgery in 1974.

For 18-year-old Ryan Hodgett, baseball pitching isn’t just a way of life … it is his life.

Ryan told Ivanhoe, “I wouldn’t give it up for anything, I mean, no matter many injuries I have I’d still try to come back.”

And Hodgett has already proven that he’ll always make a comeback after he spent a year-and-a-half sidelined by a torn ligament in his elbow that required a “Tommy John surgery.”

Mark Cohen, MD, orthopedic surgeon at Midwest Orthopaedic at Rush University, has been doing the surgery for 22 years.

He said, “When I started, we would see, literally, one a year, two a year. And now sometimes, in the summer, we can see four or five individuals in a given week.”

And those patients are mostly teenagers. Doctor Cohen says the emphasis on year-round training with a win-at-all-cost attitude is putting a strain on the elbows and shoulders of young high school pitchers whose pitch count can reach well over 100 a game.

“If you go above a hundred you’re starting to pitch more than our body is designed to allow,” Doctor Cohen said.

For a while, only eight states had regulations restricting high school pitchers to just 100 to 125 pitches a game, but by the start of the 2017 season all states will be required to regulate pitch counts.

“When you throw the ball, you put a tremendous amount of torque, or stress, on the inside of the elbow,” Cohen said.

Ryan told Ivanhoe, “If my arm starts hurting during a game, I’m pulling myself out immediately, now.”

Each states athletic association will be charged with setting its own specific pitch-count restrictions and the biggest question is … how will pitch counts be enforced? It’s still not clear who will keep track of pitches and whether they will be logged in a public database, but the national federation of state high school athletic associations says they will leave that up to each individual state.

Contributors to this news report include: Jessica Sanchez, Field Producer; Brogan Morris, Assistant Producer; and Tony Dastoli, Editor and Videographer.