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Pitch Smart: The Combination of Education and Proper Mechanics

Pitch Smart - TheSeason - GameChanger

Ted Sullivan, CEO of GameChanger, understands the devastating impact of arm injuries in baseball and the difficulties associated with rehabilitation. That’s why it was important for Sullivan and GameChanger to partner with Major League Baseball and USA Baseball on Pitch Smart, a joint initiative designed to prevent or significantly reduce overuse arm injuries in young baseball players.

“As a former collegiate and professional pitcher, I’ve seen firsthand how difficult rehabbing an arm injury is,” said Sullivan, who pitched for Duke and later the Cleveland Indians organization. “I think because the rate of successful return to form of professional pitchers is so high from Tommy John, younger pitchers and parents just assume it’s an easy fix.

“In my opinion, that couldn’t be further from the truth.”

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Sullivan explained that those professional pitchers are paid to rehabilitate their injuries with a full-time staff dedicated to their return.

“A high school pitcher simply doesn’t have the same resources available to them,” Sullivan said. “The rate of return to pre-injury form is going to be less than that of a professional pitcher.

“I think the best solution is one that involves education and awareness combined with proper mechanics, strength and conditioning, and dedicated off-time from pitching both in and out of season. The Pitch Smart program is a huge step towards a solution.”

MLB and USA Baseball teamed to help younger players reduce arm injuries by providing a comprehensive resource for safe pitching practices. The Pitch Smart program is a series of practiced, age-appropriate guidelines to help parents, players and coaches avoid overuse injuries and foster long, healthy careers for youth pitchers.

GameChanger helps by featuring fully customizable pitch count alerts that a coach or scorekeeper can set for their pitcher’s specific needs and pitch count limits.

“Each pitcher has a different tolerance regarding number of pitches they are capable of throwing on any particular day,” Sullivan said. “Our pitch count alerts remove the ‘cookie cutter’ approach when considering pitch counts for starters versus relievers.”

Sullivan said GameChanger also displays the entire chart of Pitch Smart guidelines to better educate coaches, fans and parents on the recommended max daily limit by age as well as the recommended rest period between outings.

“GameChanger is uniquely positioned to help deliver the Pitch Smart message and guidelines to hundreds of thousands of teams and millions of fans, parents and players via our in-app and web notifications and display of Pitch Smart guidelines,” Sullivan said.

“We’re also helping tournament administrators that utilize our tournament management tools to track pitch count totals for each pitcher that takes the mound in order to help the tournament comply for Pitch Smart guidelines if they choose.”

In five-and-a-half years, GameChanger has captured more than 850 million pitches.

“That’s an amazing amount of data to tap into, and we hope we start tackling some of these projects to help improve the game,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan believes the team at MLB and USA Baseball are the best in the business when it comes to understanding triggers and risk factors for predicting future arm injuries. The Pitch Smart education program is designed to serve as an educational tool to bring awareness to an issue plaguing the sport at all levels.

It’s a big step towards a solution, but Sullivan and others have cautioned the approach will take years to prove its effectiveness.

“Right now, there are thousands of pitchers out there that have already had considerable damage done to them pre-Pitch Smart over the past 8-to-10 years of their amateur careers,” Sullivan said. “There is nothing we can do to turn back the clock for them.

“What we can do is start to educate as many people as possible using the Pitch Smart program and guidelines and start to turn the tide towards healthier baseball pitchers at every level of the game.”

Learn more about Pitch Smart here

From GameChanger and Dan Scifo, a freelance reporter for Red Line Editorial, Inc. 

Baseball, pitch smart