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High school pitchers still open to injury, even with new state rule

Matt Stratton

The school sports season was the first year baseball players have had a limit on how much they can throw.

But is it enough to keep young pitchers from blowing out their arms?

Brandon Olbrys coaches the Deposit-Hancock baseball team in Delaware County. He had a pretty good spring. The team won their section even under new guidelines for pitchers.

New York now requires a certain number of rest days, depending on how many pitches a player throws. For example, if a varsity pitcher throws 96 to 105 pitchers, he needs to rest for four days. There are limits on junior varsity and modified pitchers, too.

Olbrys likes the rule.

“I think New York state is controlling what they can control," Olbrys said. "For example, they can control how much rest a kid is getting during the spring season. What they can’t control is the summer leagues, the winter leagues, the fall leagues.”

Playing just one sport year round is happening more and more. The National Federation of State High School Associations funded a study last year that found about a third of high school athletes play only one sport.

One reason is parents are thinking about college scholarships. A player could get noticed by playing year round on travel teams.

“If your child has a chance at a college scholarship and being on this team helps with that, then you want them to be on that team." said Joel Garrison, an athletic trainer with Lourdes Hospital in Binghamton.

He says pitching isn't a natural motion for an arm and every time a pitcher throws a fastball he’s putting 50 to 60 pounds of torque on his elbow.

“Now just imagine holding a bowling ball up in that position," Garrison said. "We wouldn’t do it.”

And if we did, we’d certainly take a break. But breaks are happening less and less for high school athletes.

"If they’re playing year around and just continually going and going and going, their arm is never getting a rest," Garrison said.

Both Garrison and Olbrys agree that New York’s new pitching rules are good - as guidelines. They said it’s up to the adults to pay attention to the kids, and, more importantly, know a pitcher’s limits.