When to Start Throwing Curveballs?
When to start throwing curveballs has been a touchy subject for as long as I can remember. I was working with a 10-year-old kid this afternoon and his dad was telling me that the curveballs were starting to be more and more prevalent with each year that he ages. His estimation was that 15-20% of ten year olds in this particular league threw them and that he expected that number to grow to over 50% once he turned 11. This is absolutely crazy to me. I watch the Little League World Series every year and am astonished by how many breaking balls those kids throw.
While nobody knows exactly why so many kids are getting hurt these days and why the number of Tommy John surgeries is exploding through the roof, my best guess is throwing breaking balls at such an early age. In a recent document that I found on Dr. Andrew’s website, they stated that nearly 57% of all Tommy John surgeries are happening to kids that are between the ages of 15-19 years old. They state overuse and playing baseball year-round to be the main factor but I would add that kids are throwing way too many breaking balls before they are mature enough to physically throw one. My answer to when a kid should start throwing a curveball is simple, when the kid starts to shave. Each kid is different and some kids mature faster than others but this is a simple rule of thumb that I have been telling my players for years.
One a side note/rant. If your son’s coach is putting his arm health in jeopardy by throwing breaking balls to try to win Little League games, please step in and find him another person to play for. There are a lot of naive parents out there that just look the other way and let their kid do whatever the coach tells them to do. Just know that your son might not get injured that year or even in the next few years that follow, but he is laying a damaging foundation to your son’s arm that will eventually give way and there is a great chance that he will be added to that statistic of 15-19 year olds that need Tommy John. I love to win more than any person in the entire world but no child’s arm is worth a Little League victory. There are a ton of other variables that go into whether or not a child will get injured and need Tommy John but if you adopt the shaving policy and at least you can go to sleep at night knowing that you used common sense and are giving your kid a chance to stay healthy.