Little League Baseball continues to allow kids to throw curveballs. Before deciding the issue, it's waiting for results of a five-year study due to be completed in 2011.
Meanwhile, the medical evidence against kids throwing curves continues to pile up.
Researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago recently released a study on children and pitching injuries. Their conclusions include this one: Youth pitchers should not learn curves until age 14, two years after Little League. “For pitchers under 14 years old, we encourage fast ball and change-up pitches and discourage the use of a curveball to prevent injury,” said Dr. Charles Bush-Joseph, sports medicine specialist at Rush and co-author of the report.
This is hardly a surprising conclusion. Or a new one. Many surgeons have been saying the same thing for years. Robert Kerlan, the surgeon who cared for Sandy Koufax, had this to say about kids and curves in 1976.
"The unnatural contortions of the arm and elbow are harmful enough to the pros, to say nothing of young athletes whose bones and joints are still growing. We shouldn't put pressure on them that will ruin the development of their skeletal structures and lead to deformities."
Local Little Leagues don't need to wait for Williamsport. They can ban curves on their own, and a few progressive ones have done so. Why haven't more? Enforcement of a no-curve policy is a legitimate issue. Umpires would have to be trained to recognize a curve right away and be prepared to warn - after multiple infractions, even eject - pitchers. That seems surmountable and, if it saves a kid's arm, worth the trouble. The bigger issue, it seems, is the attitude of the adults. Would we support, promote, defend this? Sign me up. I'm locking arms with the late Dr. Kerlan.
Thank you, Doug Abrams.