Youth Baseball Pitch Count

By doconnell •  Updated: 04/27/14 •  7 min read

How do you manage a youth baseball pitch count for your pitcher? There are may youth baseball programs across the country that are already have limits on how much a pitcher can pitch. Most programs I have seen only set the number innings a player can pitch within a certain amount of time or tournament. However, there is a large group of people and organizations that are trying to steer youth baseball teams into using a youth baseball pitch count as a way to avoid arm injuries. The thinking is the same, but research has shown the the number of pitches a person throws is a better indicator of the stress put on the arm.

In the video below, Karl Kuhn, University of Virginia Pitching Coach, talks about using a youth baseball pitch count and drills to help protect your young pitchers’ arms. Why would you listen to Coach Kuhn? In 16 years he has not had one arm injury on his pitching staff. He also coached the 2010 ACC pitcher of the year, Danny Hultzen. Watch the video and learn from his experience.

Also, as you can read below the video, Little League Baseball has made their own recommendations about using a youth baseball pitch count. Check out what they are recommending for all youth baseball pitchers.


As a long-time youth baseball coach, I have seen way too many kids arms overused and injured by coaches looking for the “Win.” I have seen high school teams use the same pitcher during playoff games, and other important games, just to ensure their team wins and moves on. I have seen some very good pitchers go from their team’s #1 pitcher to, within one year, never pitching with the same velocity again. Their arm just died…

In the heat of the moment and with the pressure to win an important game, it is so easy to use your best pitcher, even if he has pitched a bunch recently. Something needs to change with that thought process… I commend Little League Baseball with coming out with new youth baseball pitch count guidelines.

Below is from the Introduction to Little League’s new regulation and then there is a link to the actual guide. Be sure to download this and read it!


Little League Baseball has changed its decades-old pitching rules, making the actual number of pitches delivered the deciding factor in determining eligibility in the baseball division.

Twenty copies of this publication, “Protecting Young Pitching Arms: The Little League Youth Baseball Pitch Count Regulation Guide for Parents, Coaches and League Officials,” are being provided at no charge to more than 7,000 local Little League programs worldwide. The goal of this publication is to reach as many parents and volunteers as possible, so that everyone will know the benefits and their responsibilities in making this regulation work.

Inside, you’ll find helpful questions and answers about the new regulation, as well as the regular season regulation and the rule to be used in the International Tournament. It also includes great advice from respected medical professionals on the care and conditioning of the pitching arm, and the best ideas from the thousands of Little League volunteers who have successfully used “pitch counts” in their local Little Leagues during the past year or two.

Starting with the 2007 season, pitchers in all divisions of Little League, from age 7 to 18, will have specific limits for each game, based on their age. The number of pitches delivered in a game will determine the amount of rest the player must have before pitching again. “Little League has a rich history of pioneering baseball safety innovations,” said Stephen D. Keener, president and chief executive officer of Little League Baseball and Softball. “As the world’s largest organized youth sports program, Little League is proud to take a leadership position in youth sports safety.”

There are about 2.3 million players in the baseball divisions of Little League worldwide. There are nearly 400,000 female softball players, but the new regulations will not apply to softball.

For all of Little League Baseball’s history, and for the history of amateur youth baseball in general, pitching regulations have used innings pitched to determine pitcher eligibility. Recently, researchers and medical professionals in the field of sports medicine have been working to determine if the actual number of pitches thrown (i.e., youth baseball pitch count) is a better way to regulate pitching in youth baseball.

Most notable among those calling for pitch counts has been Dr. \\\\\\\\ James R. Andrews, M.D., medical director at the American Sports Medicine Institute (ASMI) in Birmingham, Ala. Dr. Andrews is the world’s foremost authority on pitching injuries and ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction, or, as it is better known, “Tommy John surgery.” The ASMI and the USA Baseball Medical and Safety Advisory Committee have worked closely with Little League to create the guidelines for the new regulation.

“This is one of the most important injury prevention steps ever initiated in youth baseball by the leader in youth baseball,” Dr. Andrews said. “It is certain to serve as the youth sports injury prevention cornerstone and the inspiration for other youth organizations to take the initiative to get serious about injury prevention in youth sports. I am proud that out American Sports Medicine Institute and USA Baseball can play a small role in this important initiative.”

Little League is the first national youth baseball organization to institute a pitch count. The Little League International Board of Directors approved the measure unanimously at a meeting on Aug. 25, two days before the conclusion of the Little League Baseball World Series.

“This is the right time to make this change,” Mr. Keener said. “We call upon all youth baseball organizations, including travel leagues, to implement their own pitch count programs in the interest of protecting young pitching arms. Our goal continues to be to educate everyone, particularly parents and coaches, on the potential injuries that can occur from throwing too many pitches.”

For the past two years, Little League has conducted a Pitch Count Pilot Program to determine the feasibility of implementing a regulation limiting the number of pitches a Little Leaguer can throw in a day, and the rest required before pitching again. Fifty leagues were studied in 2005, and nearly 500 signed up for the program in 2006.

“Surveys of those leagues showed the overwhelming majority were able to implement a pitch count without any problems,” Mr. Keener said. “They also found that they were able to develop other pitchers who might not have otherwise ever taken the mound. And they found that their pitchers were stronger at the end of the season.”

Regulations for tournament play (all-stars) are similar, but with some modifications. Little League also continues to explore other pitching-related issues, such as the use of breaking pitches.

“While there is no medical evidence to support a ban on breaking pitches, it is widely speculated by medical professionals that it is ill-advised for players under 14 years old to throw breaking pitches,” Mr. Keener said.

“Breaking pitches for these ages continues to be strongly discouraged by Little League, and that is an issue we are looking at as well. As with our stance on pitch counts, we will act if and when there is enough medical evidence to support a change.”

Little League International has begun a five-year study on breaking pitches by Little League pitchers. The study is being conducted by the University of North Carolina and is supported by the Yawkey Foundation.