Competitive athletics, by their nature, are physically demanding – this can be particularly so with young athletes whose bodies are still developing. Different sports impose different stresses on the body. In baseball, some of the most common stresses can be tied directly to arm overuse, with the highest prevalence of overuse injuries (shoulder and elbow) tied to pitching.
In recent years, with the rise in baseball specialization at earlier ages and a booming “AAU” or “travel ball” industry providing athletes with year-round and multiple playing opportunities, the problem of athletes pitching too much and too often is nearing epidemic status. “Kids are starting sports at younger ages, they are playing on travel teams and school teams at the same time, and are playing baseball year-round,” said Dr. Marc Richard, a hand and upper-extremity specialist. “There’s no longer an off-season. Studies show the number of innings pitched and the number of pitches per outing are directly related to the increased prevalence of throwing injuries.”
Over the years, baseball governing bodies have become increasingly aware of the impact of excessive pitch loads, and have imposed pitch limits on teams they govern to help reduce the risk of overuse injuries. If consistently and conscientiously followed, limits on pitch loads are effective. But, if pitch limits are not enforced or are not universally applicable across each team on which a player may pitch, players remain at risk. Such risk stems from ineffective communication between coaches or, in some cases, conscious disregard by one coach of a player’s pitching activity on another team. Relying on the player to recognize his or her own pitch limits is unwise as most competitive athletes will choose to have the ball in their hands if given the opportunity. Parents can be similarly ineffective checks on excessive pitch loads, either through lack of awareness of their athlete’s pitch load/limit or through willful ignorance and a desire to see their athlete get as many pitching opportunities as possible.
ChangeUp is designed to provide an easy-to-use tool to accurately and completely track a particular athlete’s pitch load across an unlimited number of teams and seasons. With its simple interface, ChangeUp allows real-time, in-game tracking of pitches thrown and allows the coach to also monitor the athlete’s availability for upcoming contests as particular pitch thresholds are reached, while also factoring in powerful analytics to identify trends regarding durability and effectiveness. Further, by tracking pitch loads across multiple teams, ChangeUp removes any uncertainty about an athlete’s total pitching activity and allows coaches coordinate or, at least, to honestly and fully assess the athlete’s current availability to pitch.