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Are Curveballs Dangerous? Here’s A Scientific Twist

For decades, concerned parents have kept their children from using certain types of pitches. Are curveballs dangerous? The theory is that contorting your elbow and shoulder repeatedly causes damage. Common knowledge argued that if children waited until high school or college to start throwing curveballs, they would protect their shoulders and elbows.

With all of the recent developments in sports science and research over the past decade, researchers are now able to analyze hypotheses concerning cause and effect.  Parents, coaches, and even athletes want an answer: Are curveballs dangerous? Glenn Fleisig, Director of Research for the American Sports Medicine Institute has been working on this project for eight years.

Fleisig simply stated that he wanted to prove that curveballs were dangerous, or conclude that they were fine. In a lab, with proper technique and good mechanics, curveballs are no more dangerous than fastballs. However, when played out on the mound, the results seem to be different. Fleisig’s research partner Dr. James Andrews blames the variance in lab tests and reality on poor technique, fatigue, and even a lack of neuromuscular control.

Dr. Tim Kremchek, the Medical Director for the Reds MLB team, and well known orthopaedic surgeon, weighed in on the question are curveballs dangerous. He thinks that coaches and parents are obligated to protect their players instead of relying on research funded by and conducted through partners of USA Baseball and the Little League organization. While he is not arguing that the data collected is wrong, Dr. Kremchek has seen a big increase in the number of young arms he treats every year. In fact, he is up to about 150 Tommy John surgeries a year now.

He was careful to clarify that upwards of 70% of patients requiring Tommy John surgery haven’t even hit college yet. He asks them about the first time they started using breaking balls, and some of them started as early as age nine. Even if current research is not proving that curveballs are dangerous, it certainly isn’t proving that they are safe.

To read the entire article written by Bill Pennington, as published in the New York Times, please click here.