SUNDAY, April 21 (HealthDay News) -- The start of baseball season is a good time for parents and coaches to talk to young pitchers about how to prevent overuse injuries, an expert suggests.

Bones, muscles and connective tissues are not fully developed in most children up to age 16, so too much pitching can lead to injury, explained Dr. Michael Freehill, an assistant professor of orthopedics at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

"Parents may find it difficult to put limits on any activity that a child is good at and enjoys performing," he said in a medical center news release. "But when it comes to pitching, the surest way to ruin a young athlete's chances of success is to allow him or her to overdo it."

Freehill offered some guidelines to help prevent problems:

  • Before throwing, young pitchers should always warm up with stretching and running. Throwing should start with easy tosses, followed by gradual increases in distance and then intensity.
  • Youngsters should focus on age-appropriate pitching skills, with an emphasis on control, accuracy and good mechanics, not curveballs and speed.
  • It's important to track the number of pitches and to stay within age-specific pitch-count limits, such as those established by Little League Baseball.
  • Rest periods between pitching sessions are important. Children can still play, but only at positions other than pitcher and catcher.
  • Don't allow children to pitch for multiple teams with overlapping schedules or to play baseball year-round.
  • Youngsters should never pitch through pain. Adults need to stress to children that, if they have discomfort while throwing, telling a coach or parent is the right thing to do.

"Following these guidelines may force a young pitcher to sit out a few innings or miss a few pitching opportunities during the season," Freehill said. "However, that's a small price to pay for keeping our kids healthy and giving them their best shot at success over the long run."

More information

The Nemours Foundation offers baseball safety tips for youngsters.