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Pitching Rules

Regular Season Pitching Rules – Baseball

VI – PITCHERS

(a) Any player on a regular season team may pitch. (NOTE: There is no limit to the number of pitchers a team may use in a game.)

(b) A pitcher once removed from the mound cannot return as a pitcher. Junior and Senior League Divisions only: A pitcher remaining in the game, but moving to a different position, can return as a pitcher anytime in the remainder of the game, but only once per game.

(c) The manager must remove the pitcher when said pitcher reaches the limit for his/her age group as noted below, but the pitcher may remain in the game at another position:

League Age:
13-16 – 95 pitches per day
11-12 – 85 pitches per day
9-10 – 75 pitches per day
7-8 – 50 pitches per day

Exception: If a pitcher reaches the limit imposed in Regulation VI (c) for his/her league age while facing a batter, the pitcher may continue to pitch until any one of the following conditions occurs: 1. That batter reaches base; 2. That batter is put out; 3. The third out is made to complete the half-inning. Note 1: A pitcher who delivers 41 or more pitches in a game cannot play the position of catcher for the remainder of that day. Note 2: Any player who has played the position of catcher in four or more innings in a game is not eligible to pitch on that calendar day.

(d) Pitchers league age 14 and under must adhere to the following rest requirements:

  • If a player pitches 66 or more pitches in a day, four (4) calendar days of rest must be observed.

  • If a player pitches 51-65 pitches in a day, three (3) calendar days of rest must be observed.

  • If a player pitches 36-50 pitches in a day, two (2) calendar days of rest must be observed.

  • If a player pitches 21-35 pitches in a day, one (1) calendar days of rest must be observed.

  • If a player pitches 1-20 pitches in a day, no (0) calendar day of rest is required.

Exception: If a pitcher reaches a day(s) of rest threshold while facing a batter, the pitcher may continue to pitch until any one of the following conditions occurs: (1) that batter reaches base; (2) that batter is retired; or (3) the third out is made to complete the half-inning or the game. The pitcher will only be required to observe the calendar day(s) of rest for the threshold he/she reached during that at-bat, provided that pitcher is removed or the game is completed before delivering a pitch to another batter.”

(d) Pitchers league age 15-16 must adhere to the following rest requirements:

  • If a player pitches 76 or more pitches in a day, four (4) calendar days of rest must be observed.


  • If a player pitches 61-75 pitches in a day, three (3) calendar days of rest must be observed.


  • If a player pitches 46-60 pitches in a day, two (2) calendar days of rest must be observed.


  • If a player pitches 31-45 pitches in a day, one (1) calendar days of rest must be observed.


  • If a player pitches 1-30 pitches in a day, no (0) calendar day of rest is required.

Exception: If a pitcher reaches a day(s) of rest threshold while facing a batter, the pitcher may continue to pitch until any one of the following conditions occurs: (1) that batter reaches base; (2) that batter is retired; or (3) the third out is made to complete the half-inning or the game. The pitcher will only be required to observe the calendar day(s) of rest for the threshold he/she reached during that at-bat, provided that pitcher is removed or the game is completed before delivering a pitch to another batter.

(e) Each league must designate the scorekeeper or another game official as the official pitch count recorder.

(f) The pitch count recorder must provide the current pitch count for any pitcher when requested by either manager or any umpire. However, the manager is responsible for knowing when his/her pitcher must be removed.

(g) The official pitch count recorder should inform the umpire-in-chief when a pitcher has delivered his/her maximum limit of pitches for the game, as noted in Regulation VI (c). The umpire-in-chief will inform the pitcher’s manager that the pitcher must be removed in accordance with Regulation VI (c). However, the failure by the pitch count recorder to notify the umpire-in-chief, and/or the failure of the umpire-in- chief to notify the manager, does not relieve the manager of his/her responsibility to remove a pitcher when that pitcher is no longer eligible.

(h) Violation of any section of this regulation can result in protest of the game in which it occurs. Protest shall be made in accordance with Playing Rule 4.19.

(j) A player who has attained the league age of twelve (12) is not eligible to pitch in the Minor League. (See Regulation V – Selection of Players)

(k) A player may not pitch in more than one game in a day.

NOTES:

  1. The withdrawal of an ineligible pitcher after that pitcher is announced, or after a warm-up pitch is delivered, but before that player has pitched a ball to a batter, shall not be considered a violation. Little League officials are urged to take precautions to prevent protests. When a protest situation is imminent, the potential offender should be notified immediately.
  2. Pitches delivered in games declared “Regulation Tie Games” or “Suspended Games” shall be charged against pitcher’s eligibility.
  3. In suspended games resumed on another day, the pitchers of record at the time the game was halted may continue to pitch to the extent of their eligibility for that day, provided said pitcher has observed the required days of rest.

Example 1: A league age 12 pitcher delivers 70 pitches in a game on Monday when the game is suspended. The game resumes on the following Thursday. The pitcher is not eligible to pitch in the resumption of the game because he/she has not observed the required days of rest.

Example 2: A league age 12 pitcher delivers 70 pitches in a game on Monday when the game is suspended. The game resumes on Saturday. The pitcher is eligible to pitch up to 85 more pitches in the resumption of the game because he/she has observed the required days of rest.

Example 3: A league age 12 pitcher delivers 70 pitches in a game on Monday when the game is suspended. The game resumes two weeks later. The pitcher is eligible to pitch up to 85 more pitches in the resumption of the game, provided he/she is eligible based on his/her pitching record during the previous four days.

Note: The use of this regulation negates the concept of the “calendar week” with regard to pitching eligibility

Arm Injuries/Pitch Smart Program

The Number-one Risk of Arm Injuries Continues to be Year-round Play

If baseball is to continue to be “America’s Pastime,” we need to make sure that arm injury prevention is a number-one priority. There is no question that Little League® International is working hard to keep our young athletes healthy. From my perspective, there is no youth baseball league that has done more to promote youth baseball as a safe and healthy sport, particularly Little League’s executive staff, along with the rest of the Little League International Directors.

For years, the arm injury rates in youth baseball has been on the rise. Due to this trend, several years ago, dramatic steps were taken by Little League Baseball® to make youth baseball a safer and healthier sport. This effort has been successful in curtailing many of traumatic injuries due to overuse. However, there is much more work to be done.

Decreasing Injuries

The initial step taken at Little League to decrease arm injuries was the development of the pitch count rules, The pitch count rules were generated after long periods of study and research at USA Baseball and the American Sports Medicine Institute (ASMI).

Avoid Fatigue

In regards to overuse injuries that occur in youth baseball, fatigue continues to be the driving factor. Research work done at ASMI in Birmingham, Ala., and from the Andrews Research and Education Institute (AREI) in Gulf Breeze, Fla., has proven that if a young baseball player plays with fatigue, there is a 36 to 1 increased incidence that they can injure their throwing shoulder and/or elbow.

Fatigue can be defined in three different ways.

  1. Event Fatigue – too many pitches in a game.
  2. Seasonal Fatigue – too many pitches and/or innings in a season.
  3. Year-Round Fatigue – playing youth baseball year-round.

Parents should remember the jeopardy they are putting their young players in when fatigue occurs. Little League International has done a lot to educate their coaches, the players, parents, and grandparents to the risks involving fatigue and arm injuries, and what steps need to be taken to play the game safely. It’s also important to note that Little League also has rules to limit the pitcher moving to catcher and vice versa in the same game to limit additional throwing.

Risk – Year-Round Baseball and Softball

Parents need to realize that the number-one risk factor of arm injuries for our youth continues to be year-round baseball or softball. If parents understand the injury risk factors, it only takes common sense to be able to recognize what to do to decrease injuries.

In the case of year-round baseball or softball, it is recommended that young players have at least two months off each year where they are not playing any type of overhead sports. Preferably, it is recommended three to four months off each year. Even professional baseball players get that period of time off, and certainly our kids are more vulnerable to injury than our mature professional players.

Risk – Playing In More Than One League At A Time

The second risk factor is playing in more than one league at the same time. Certainly, for those parents that have their children participating in Little League, they should try to make sure their children do not participate in more than one league at the same time. When multiple leagues are played in during the same season (time of year), there are few safeguards, and the chance of overuse injuries dramatically increases.

Risk – Showcase Events

Some showcases are very well organized and have the health and well-being of the young players as their top priority. There are other showcases, however, that are not well organized and carry a high injury rate. Today’s parents, unfortunately, and mistakenly, consider showcases as a way for their child to get scouted for both college scholarships and professional play. These showcases don’t mean near as much as parents think they do, and they can produce serious injuries over a concentrated weekend period.

Risk – Radar Gun

Young baseball players should not concentrate on their velocity. This is promoted by a dad’s radar gun in the backyard or by a coach putting a radar gun on a young pitcher which promotes a pitch velocity beyond their safety margin. Young baseball players in the Little League age groups have an underdeveloped  elbow ulnar collateral (Tommy John’s) ligament, and it is easy to redline that ligament if they are over-throwing with a radar gun.

Risk – Poor Mechanics (curve ball)

The problem with curve balls at an early age is that it is a highly sophisticated neuromuscular controlled pitch that is difficult to throw. It is recommended that players not throw curveballs until they are old enough to shave. That means they have gone through puberty and their bones have matured. Poor mechanics continue to promote injuries, so working on good mechanics for any position in youth baseball is extremely important. While seeking out a pitching coach to learn good mechanics sounds like a good idea, there is a caution involved as well … pitching lessons add an additional workload that could cause harm.

Once again, congratulations to the leadership of Little League International for all the organization has done to keep the safety and well-being of our young players a top priority. I, as a member of the Board of Little League International, will continue to monitor all of the safety concerns associated with our wonderful sport, and will do everything I can to help protect our young players. I am sure Little League International and its Board of Directors will continue to make the necessary safety changes to allow baseball to continue to thrive around the world.

Click on the Logo for more information on Arm Safety 

Little League Elbow

Little League Elbow

Little League elbow is a common overuse injury associated with throwing. This injury is most common in pitchers but also occurs in catchers, infielders, and outfielders.

Little League elbow is the result of repetitive stress to the growth plate on the inside of the elbow. The greatest stress occurs during the acceleration phase of throwing a baseball.

Growing bones are easily injured because the growth plate is much weaker than the ligaments and muscles that attach to it. Once the growth plates fuse, athletes are more likely to injure ligaments and tendons instead.

Symptoms

Little League elbow usually begins gradually without a specific injury, but a distinct painful pop may occasionally be felt. Young athletes often try to minimize their symptoms so they can continue playing the sport.

Athletes may experience aching, sharp pain, and swelling on the inside of the elbow. These symptoms may occur only with pitching, but may progress to the point when any throwing causes pain. Advanced stages of the disorder may include small fractures of the growth plate, loose bodies or bone chips, or early arthritis and bone spurs.

Who gets Little League elbow?

Little League elbow is most common between the ages of 8 to 15 years but can occur up to age 17 years if the growth plate has not fused. This condition is seen most often in pitchers. Athletes who play other high-volume throwing positions, such as catcher, shortstop, or outfielder, are also susceptible.

There is a direct link between elbow pain and the number of pitches (pitch counts) and the number of games in which a young player throws. Most leagues have rules in place about this but they may not be followed, so it is very important that someone (usually the parent) keeps count. This includes counting the extra throwing done outside of practice. This problem is seen much more commonly in baseball players who play year-round and pitch for more than one team.

Fastballs are the most common pitches thrown in baseball and are thrown hard, usually with backspin. Changeups are thrown with the same arm action as a fastball, but the ball moves slower because the pitcher holds the ball with a different grip. Breaking pitches (curveballs/ sliders) are thrown with topspin that causes them to “break” or drop down as they reach the plate. Breaking pitches appear to cause the most stress to the shoulder and elbow and so they are not recommended until age 14 for a curveball and age 16 for a slider.

Tests

X-rays of the elbow can help determine if the growth plate is still open and if it is widened. They can also show other bone problems, loose bone chips, and early arthritis. X-rays in patients with Little League elbow may show nothing abnormal, but the athlete may still have pain.

Treatment

Treatment of Little League elbow involves 3 stages: rest, rehab, and return to pitching.

  1. Rest. At first, complete rest from all throwing activities is important. Ice can be helpful to relieve pain and swelling. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can be used but are not usually necessary if the athlete is not throwing.
  2. Rehab. Individualized physical therapy programs are the most useful for these young baseball players. The program should include elbow range of motion and strength exercises and should progress to include strengthening of the forearm, upper arm, shoulder, back, and core.
  3. Return to pitching. Players can return to throwing when they are pain-free and have full range of motion and strength. They should progress gradually from nonthrowing positions (like designated hitter), through less throwing positions (like first and second base), to fulleffort throwing positions. A return to pitching program, which outlines a progression of the number and the distance of throws, should be discussed and instituted for these young pitchers.

Most cases of Little League elbow clear up with rest and conservative management as described previously. However, the timeline for recovery, as with most overuse injuries, is different for every athlete. Not following the treatment plan may lead to long-term disability or deformity, including such conditions as osteoarthritis.

Prevention

  • Year-round fitness. Players need to recognize the benefits of year-round physical fitness and conditioning. Resistance training is important and useful for all baseball players and should include arm, shoulder, back, trunk, and hip strengthening, and aerobic conditioning.
  • Active rest. Baseball players need a period of “active rest” where they do not throw but are able to play other sports. This rest period should be at least 3 to 6 months long to give the body time to rest and recover.
  • Pitching guidelines. Pitch counts are necessary at all levels of baseball. Guidelines have been updated, researched, and summarized in a publication titled “Protecting Young Pitching Arms.” These guidelines are important for all young pitchers, parents, and coaches to be familiar with. Guidelines can be found at www.littleleague.org or ASMI Position Statement for Youth Baseball Pitchers.
  • Control, command, and speed. Young pitchers need to work first on control (getting the ball in the strike zone). After gaining control they should work on command (being able to place the pitch in certain areas of the strike zone). Finally, after they master control and command they can work on increasing pitch speed. Pitchers younger than 14 years should only throw fast balls and changeups. Curveballs can be added after age 14 and sliders after age 16.
  • Avoiding maximum effort throws. Young pitchers need to avoid other high-demand throwing positions (catcher, short-stop, third base) on days they have pitched. They should also rest from pitching for 24 to 48 hours after an outing, including backyard practice.
  • Avoiding further injury. Athletes need to listen to their bodies carefully and avoid pitching through pain. An athlete who complains of pain around the elbow or shoulder, popping, or discomfort with throwing should not be allowed to throw anymore that day until pain-free. After that, a careful plan for gradual return to throwing would include
    • Warm-up and throws that are less than maximum effort
    • Pitching with less than maximum throws
    • Maximum effort pitches
  • Proper mechanics. Correct pitching and throwing mechanics should be stressed at a young age. Poor mechanics can lead to injury. Biomechanic evaluation can be obtained from a qualified pitching coach or in a biomechanics laboratory.
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