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Young Arms and Curveballs: A Scientific Twist

Are curveballs really dangerous for young pitchers to throw? This interesting article by the New York Times dives headlong into the debate. Dr. Timothy Kremchek, one of Beacon’s leading physicians, has performed over a thousand Tommy John surgeries. “Doc” treats many Little Leaguers, and thinks the organization should take a stronger stance against overuse of athletes’ arms. He also serves as the team physician for the Cincinnati Reds MLB team. The Timefound his insights on the matter very valuable.

“They have an obligation to protect these 12-year-old kids and instead, they’re saying, ‘There’s no scientific evidence curveballs cause damage, so go ahead, kids, just keep throwing them,’” Kremchek said. “It makes me sick to my stomach to watch the Little League World Series and see 12-year-olds throwing curve after curve. Those of us who have to treat those kids a few years later, we’re pretty sure there is a cause and effect.”

“Doc” performs over 150 elbow ligament reconstructions a year, also known as Tommy John surgery. “Seventy percent of those surgeries are pitchers who haven’t hit college yet,” Kremchek said. “I ask each one the same question: when did you start throwing curveballs? And they say: ‘I was 10. I was 11.’ Sometimes, it’s 9.”

“The mothers in those leagues are the biggest fans of those rules,” Kremchek said. “It’s not a hard call for the umpires. A 12-year-old trying to throw a breaking ball is pretty demonstrative as he does it. You can tell.”

The debate about banning curveballs in youth athletics has resulted in countless studies. While there are disagreements on the cause and effect, there is nearly unanimous agreement that overuse is by far the biggest threat. That, too, is consistent with the findings of more than 15 years of research at the American Sports Medicine Institute, and similar studies around the country.

For the full story featured in teh New York Times, please click here. Dr. Kremchek’s comments are featured throughout the article.