Protecting Your Young Pitcher: Responding to Arm Pain

This is unfortunately a hot topic that we see in the softball world, and it is rarely addressed appropriately. Shoulder injuries and pain are so common within the softball culture that what may be minor aches and pains are often ignored. Click here for 4 tips for athletes with shoulder pain.

Softball is a sport where pitch counts, recovery time, and proper arm care is commonly placed on the backburner. If we ignore these aspects, will the aches and pain go away? — The answer is no.

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Let’s take a look at baseball for comparison. The average high school baseball pitcher is not permitted to throw beyond 100-125 pitches per day, depending on the state in which they reside. If anywhere between 75-125 pitches are thrown, there is a required 3-4 calendar rest days before the pitcher can step back out on the mound. That sounds reasonable, right?

I’ve had teammates that threw 7-8 games in ONE WEEKEND. On average, softball pitchers throw 90-100 pitches per game if they start and finish. This means that these girls can total upwards of 800+ pitches consecutively across ONLY 3 DAYS. This does not include warm-ups or practice going into the next week. THIS IS CRAZY! Throwing at this capacity and frequency will only lead to issues down the road. Don’t let your daughter burn out. These athletes NEED time to rest and recover! 


My goal with this post is to dive deeper into some of the biggest misconceptions about arm pain in our softball athletes and clear up some of these muddy waters. Let’s spend the next few minutes together taking a deeper dive, so you know the top things to consider with your daughter’s arm health.

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Common Myths Debunked

Myth #1: Some degree of arm pain is NORMAL.

It’s very common for parents, coaches, and even players to hold onto the idea that if they want to be an elite level player who plays a lot of games, some amount of pain is normal.


Continuing to throw through pain will only set your daughter up for more serious injuries AND increased frequency of injury down the road. Overuse injuries are the MOST COMMON injuries in softball pitchers, especially due the repetitive nature of the pitch, as well as the number of pitches they typically throw within a window of time. No matter how many pitching lessons you attend and how sound your daughter’s mechanics are, overuse injuries will still occur with this high volume of pitches. 

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This leads me into…

Myth #2: Pitching lessons is all my daughter needs to prevent injury.

Pitching lessons are a great way to advance your daughter’s pitching skills, velocity, and control through the advanced coaching and guidance of a trained pitching coach. However, pitching lessons are NOT the end all be all. As we discussed, your daughter may throw around 700 pitches over the weekend, have Monday off, and then she is right back into her pitching lesson on Tuesday. All of these go hand-in-hand to lead to overuse. 

If you are in the Charlotte area, and your softball athlete is experiencing arm pain, ensure she is getting adequate recovery time and reach out to a local sports physical therapist.

The first thing any athlete, coach, or parent should be mindful of is that an injured body does NOT yield PEAK PERFORMANCE. Talk with your coach and physical therapist to come up with the best plan for your daughter to recover, prevent injury, improve mechanics, and keep performing on the mound.

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Myth #3: The windmill motion is “more natural” and leads to less stress on the arm compared to overhead throwing.

This is one of the most common statements I heard throughout my years of playing softball. Are we shocked to find out that .. IT’S NOT TRUE 🤯? Studies have been done that show even though there are differences between the dynamics of baseball and softball and those who play the sport (ie. gender, size of the ball, mound angle, mound distance, pitching motion, etc.), stresses at the shoulder and elbow during the delivery and deceleration of a pitch are very comparable. The number of studies in the baseball world largely outweigh those in the realm of softball, so this is something we are continuing to push in the world of research.

I even had the opportunity to contribute to advancing the knowledge of our athletes, parents, and coaches through research on the follow-through phase of a softball pitch.

As a result, the windmill motion is not a “more natural” motion for the body to perform. Don’t fall into this trap and allow your daughter to throw more and more pitches, because it is supposed to be natural.

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Myth #4: Softball pitching injuries are rare.

After reading the above, I don’t think it comes as a surprise that overuse injuries are the most common type of injury as a softball athlete. However, as a pitcher, your athlete is 3x more likely to experience injury when compared to other positions. The world of softball research is continuing to grow as these rates increase, but we have come to find out that softball pitching injuries are far from being rare. One study found that 68% of pitchers have experienced or are currently dealing with an injury during the season. As a softball athlete myself, I was not surprised to hear that injuries are significantly UNDER-REPORTED in our athletes. Competition injury rates tend to be higher than practice injury rates and our pitchers tend to push through discomfort in order to get those final three outs of a game.

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Myth #5: Arm pain after pitching will resolve with rest.

As we talked about above, rest and recovery is essential to maintain performance on the mound. However, if your athlete is experiencing pain after pitching, just resting the arm and hoping it will feel better by the next tournament is not the answer. This is something that I have commonly heard from my teammates, players, and patients and they are shocked when the pain comes back the next weekend when they try to jump back on the mound. Don’t get stuck on this roller coaster of rest and re-injury or re-aggravation.

The goal for any athlete should be to address the root cause of the issue and return to sport better than they were prior to injury. This is what we do as a sport and athlete-based physical therapy clinic in Charlotte. We were/are all athletes and have been told “a week of rest should do the trick.” Don’t let your athlete dig a deeper and deeper hole by continuing to pitch on top of pain or rely on rest to “solve the issue”. Your daughter’s most valuable asset as a pitcher is HER ARM, she must be healthy to be a valuable part of a team and have longevity in playing the sport.

If your athlete or someone you know is continually having arm pain with throwing, it’s not something that should be left to linger. Come see us at The Charlotte Athlete where we specialize in treating the softball and throwing athlete, and let’s fix these problems before pain and injury starts to keep your athlete off the mound! 

Thanks for reading! 

Dr. Leah

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