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Lower pitch counts keeps young arms healthy

Kristen Browning-Blas
The Denver Post
Cyrus McCrimmon, The Denver PostCoach Frank Gonzales works with, from left, Kevin Fargo, 12, John Sorensen, 11, Andrew Low, 12, Alex Gonzales, 12, and Brendan Paul, 12, on mechanics and awareness until they can repeat the same motion with every pitch.
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Frank Gonzales is not an orthopedic surgeon, but he knows a shoulder injury when he sees one. After 11 years playing professional baseball and 20-plus coaching, the former pitcher has trained thousands of kids in the mechanics of throwing.

“I can tell just by looking at them. You see grimacing or a change in arm motion and it says right away there’s something wrong,” says Gonzales, varsity baseball coach at Fort Collins High School.

Nationally, the number of serious shoulder and elbow injuries in youth baseball and softball players has increased fivefold in the past 10 years, according to the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine. At Children’s Hospital in Denver, injury cases as well as surgeries have doubled every year since 2007.



Coaches and doctors blame lack of year-round conditioning, increased competition at younger levels, and simply throwing too many pitches.

“The problem is people are getting bigger, stronger and faster, and yet our techniques are poorer,” says Gonzales, who gives lessons on proper form to young pitchers, including his two sons, Alex, 12, and Marco, 18, starting pitcher for the 5A state champ Rocky Mountain High School Lobos.



Gonzales emphasizes body control and spatial awareness, teaching the kids to perform the same motion in the correct manner until they can repeat the movement without thinking. “When they have repeatability with their mechanics, then the game becomes a lot simpler,” says Gonzales.

For more of this Denver Post story: http://www.denverpost.com/search/ci_15051185


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