A UF Health physician will visit high-school baseball games in Alachua County this year, but he’ll only be watching the pitchers.
Dr. Jason Zaremski, a UF College of Medicine assistant professor of orthopaedics and rehabilitation, is conducting a study with the hope to decrease the number of overuse injuries in high-school baseball players, especially pitchers.
He wants to understand why young pitchers frequently tear their ulnar collateral ligament, located inside the elbow, Zaremski said.
“The number of injuries is going up and up to the point where people are losing their seasons because of surgery and potentially losing their careers,” the 40-year-old said. “It used to be an issue at the professional level, and now this is an issue at the high-school level.”
Zaremski said the injuries are associated with overuse, especially in Florida, where the weather allows for yearlong baseball. Zaremski, himself a former catcher on Emory University’s baseball team, said more off-season training can prevent injury from overuse.
“The important thing is to have a four- to six-week throwing program to build your arm strength up, so that you’re not coming into your ﬁrst day of spring training having only thrown for a week,” Zaremski said.
In fall 2016, the National Federation of State High School Associations required high-school coaches to limit how many pitches a player throws per game, as opposed to limiting the number of innings they play in, Zaremski said.
But in Florida, high-school baseball teams follow MLB’s pitching guidelines, where the maximum pitches per game depends on players’ ages, he said.
Zaremski and a team of 10 researchers, who believe players are throwing well over the maximum number of pitches per MLB guidelines, will attend Alachua County high-school baseball games this spring to count how many pitches an individual throws in a game, while also counting on- and offﬁeld practice throws.
“We are not looking at injuries this year, we’re looking at the number of pitches,” Zaremski said.
Zaremski said he plans to publish the results in a sports medicine journal in 2018. Sean Dobbs, the head coach of Eastside High School’s baseball team, said his pitchers throw no more than 80 times in a single game — although that’s tough to regulate.
In addition to working their arms in travel teams during the off-season, most high-school pitchers play a second position during the regular season.
“In college, it’s just going to be a pitcher,” Dobbs, 29, said, “but in high school, he might also be your shortstop, so over the course of a week, he’s making a ton of throws.”