Practice commitments for baseball players too taxing: With no time to relax, current schedule is a swing and a miss

Eric Rynston-Lobel, Contributing Writer

Baseball truly is a great game.  It connects grandfather and father, father and son, and the passion that so many have for “America’s Pastime” is astounding.  Much of this enthusiasm and love for the sport is displayed by teenagers in their participation on school teams, and the hard work they put in on a nearly daily basis to hone their skills, and do whatever they can to improve.  However, it is important to question how much is too much, and whether or not it is healthy, both physically and mentally, for teens to have practice six days a week.

As a pitcher, the physical side of pitching once a week, resting for maybe a day or two, and then throwing for another two straight days can definitely be demanding.   The rigor of the season needs to be cut down because it is not worth risking an injury that can easily be prevented.  On the mental side of it, practicing six times a week also leaves less time for studying, which creates more stress.

If changes are to be made, they need to be made now, as there are about four months until the spring season begins.  This would allow coaches time to make necessary adjustments, and to figure out the most beneficial way to implement this to help the team.

Let’s think of the issue in terms of a math test.  You take a math test, and later find out you failed.  Then for the next test, you study the same way you did for the previous one.  Next tests comes, you fail.  The theme here is why should you expect to do any better on your math tests if you continually study the wrong way?  This is exactly the point with baseball. As a result of the increasing number of overuse injuries among adolescents, it seems logical that efforts would be made to reduce the chances of this happening.  How could coaches expect to reduce arm injuries by maintaining the same practice schedule?

If changes are to be made, they need to be now before more young players injure themselves.  Dr. James Andrews, an orthopedic surgeon who has performed a number of surgeries on Major League Baseball players, stated that as of 2012, he has “performed about seven times the number of arm operations on young pitchers that[n] he did 15 years ago.”

That number has only increased since then, and it will continue its rise unless changes are made.  In addition, a study performed by the Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago on the effects of intensive and heavily specialized training on young athletes found that those who “spent more hours per week than their age playing one sport were 70 percent more likely to get serious overuse injuries of the back, shoulder, or elbow than other injuries.”

Even in high school, we are still young athletes between fourteen and eighteen years old.  Practicing six times a week for three hours amounts to eighteen hours per week, which exceeds what the study showed to be hazardous for young players.  Until coaches make a concerted effort to reduce the repetition of throwing, these injuries will only continue.

In addition to the mental side of the game itself, the stress of having to keep up in school is the unfortunate reality of playing any school sport.  You come home, thrilled because of a great win, only to realize that you have a paper, two tests, and forty pages to read in your book due the next day.  This is an inevitable reality no matter how many days a week practices are, but reducing it from six to five would alleviate some of this pressure.

A 2008 study analyzed the correlation between students participating in high school athletics and their grade point average.  It found that “student athletes actually did better academically when their sport was in season, and reported that the time and energy demanded by athletics provided the incentive to become more focused and efficient.”

As a student, I do not agree with this statement.  How does one become more focused and efficient when they have more work to do and less time to do it?  If players were given that extra day during the week (or weekend) to rest, study time could be spread out more evenly, ultimately resulting in less stress, and maybe even better grades.

The issue at hand truly cannot be denied.  Baseball is a fantastic sport, and of course injuries occur, but there are ways for some to be prevented.  In this case, now that the problem has been identified, it would be foolish for no changes to be made.