Westchester Health’s Eric Small, MD Featured in Wall Street Journal Article on Youth Baseball Pitching Injuries


Eric Small, MD, Pediatric and Adult Sports Medicine specialist with Westchester Health Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, Medical Director of Orthopedics and Sports Medicine with Westchester Health Associates, and assistant clinical professor of pediatrics, orthopedics and rehabilitation medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, is featured in a June 6, 2016 article in The Wall Street Journal, commenting on the alarming increase in recent years of youth baseball players with worn-out shoulders and elbows from over-pitching. Many of these young athletes require Tommy John surgery, which involves remaking the UCL (ulnar collateral ligament) with a tendon from another part of the body or a donor. A UCL tear results from overusing the elbow.

In the article, Dr. Small states that about 10% of the patients he sees in April, May and June are typically baseball players with growth-plate injuries in their elbow or shoulder. Most are 10 to 12 years old.

Older teens, age 15 to 19, account for significantly more Tommy John surgeries than any other age group in a study in the American Journal of Sports Medicine last year, increasing more than 9% a year, the WSJ reports.  

Small_with_caption.pngTo stem the tide of this ever-growing need for shoulder and elbow surgeries among teenage baseball players, a group of medical experts convened by the Major League Baseball Commissioner in 2014 has devised pitching guidelines, called Pitch Smart. These guidelines have been adopted by most national youth baseball programs, including Little League, which has had its own, similar guidelines in place since 2007, according to the WSJ article. The problem is that even though most teams abide by the pitching guidelines, many youth baseball players are playing on more than one team at a time.

How to avoid injury to shoulders and elbows due to over-pitching? Children shouldn’t have any pain or soreness in their shoulder or elbow during or after a game, Dr. Small tells the WSJ, and he advises against pitching and catching in the same game. He also recommends that pitchers play other positions and that children play different sports to develop other muscle groups.

Medical experts’ main message to young baseball players, their coaches and their parents? Young athletes should not play baseball year-round  and they should not play  on more than one baseball team at the same time.

To read The Wall Street Journal article in its entirety, click here.

Eric Small, MD is a nationally recognized expert in pediatric and adult sports medicine with more than 20 years’ experience with athletes. His practice focuses on sports injuries and concussion management, with the goal of return to play as quickly as possible. Dr. Small is a past chairman of the AAP Committee on Sports Medicine and Fitness and is active in creating national policy regarding children and sports.

Named “Sports Medicine Best Doctor” by New York Magazine and Westchester Magazine every year since 2007, Dr. Small lectures frequently at international, national and regional medical meetings on such topics as sports concussion, reflex sympathetic dystrophy, overuse injuries, stress fractures and tendinitis. He has written over 50 peer-reviewed journals and in 2002, he authored “Kids and Sports,” a highly-regarded sports parenting book focusing on all aspects of sports, exercise, nutrition and physical activity for kids.

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About the Author: ML Ball