Rafael Escamilla: Preventing Injuries from Overuse in Young Athletes

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Injuries that were once only common to adult athletes are now on the rise in younger athletes. , studies the many ways in which the bodies of youth athletes perform under stress, and publishes his work in scientific journals. There are many reasons for the rise in injuries among young athletes. Kids are now starting sports at younger and younger ages. They are also specializing in a single sport much earlier, participating in a single sport year round, and pushing themselves to a greater level of performance. These actions lead to the types of injuries that used to only plague professional athletes and can be much more difficult to treat in children and adolescents.

One big type of injury now being found in younger athletes is an injury from overuse. A common injury in youth baseball (especially in pitchers) is ulnar collateral ligament (Tommy John) injury. Until the advent of year round baseball these injuries and the subsequent Tommy John surgery that often follows were almost non-existent in youth baseball, but now they are occurring at an alarming rate. Based on published research findings, the incidence of elbow pain have been shown to increase as the number of pitches thrown in a game or in a season increase, and increase as the number of high stress pitches are thrown, such as throwing a curveball, a higher stress pitch, compared to throwing a change-up, a lower stress pitch. Dr Escamilla and his co-authors published the findings of shoulder and elbow stress during throwing different types of pitches (fastball, slider, curveball, change-up) in the paper entitled "Kinetic comparison among the fastball, curveball, slider, and change-up in collegiate baseball pitchers", published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine. Additional research has demonstrated that when a pitcher regularly threw with arm fatigue, he was 36 times more likely to have an elbow injury and subsequent surgery compared to pitchers who did not pitch with arm fatigue. Moreover, when a pitcher engaged in more than 8 months of competitive pitching during a year, he was 5 times more likely to have an elbow injury and subsequent surgery compared to pitchers who did not engage in more than 8 months of annual pitching. Finally, when a pitcher threw more than 80 pitches in a game/appearance, he was 4 times more likely to have an elbow injury and subsequent surgery compared to pitchers who did not throw more than 80 pitches in a game/appearance.

Rafael Escamilla is a distinguished professor and researcher in the field of physical therapy and biomechanics. He is also a former world-class powerlifter who at 179 pound bodyweight performed in competition a full squat of just under 650 pounds, a deadlift of 630 pounds, and a bench press of 400 pounds. He also was a former collegiate football player, baseball player, and track and field athlete.

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