The health of high school baseball pitchers has become a growing topic of conversation among athletes, coaches, parents, and doctors. One wrong pitch and one wrong move is the margin of error when it comes to health on the mound.
The IHSA is exploring legislation to help injury prevention, and some local players are in favor, including Byron All-Star pitcher Tyler Rowland, who had to sit out three weeks this season due to an arm injury caused by overuse.
"It's a great idea because pitchers need to stay healthy," Rowland said. "If they're throwing too much, they're going to get hurt and not be able to play at the next level.
The debate over regulating pitch counts and rest hit a fever pitch this year when a Genoa-Kingston player threw 167 pitches in a single game.
"I do think that the coach should've been a coach at that point and made the decision for him," says Lutheran All-Star pitcher Johnny Sanchez. "Maybe that's not in the best interest or the team's best interest."
Universal agreement is not the norm, but the discussion is starting to turn the tide.
"I fall somewhere in the middle," says Harlem All-Star pitcher T.J. Chance. "Some people may need pitch counts, others not. I think there could be a rule for everybody, but there's no way anyone should be at 160-some pitches. That's not right."
"When I pitch, I have a mental pitch count," says Rockford Christian All-Star thrower Nolan Gazouski. "When I hit around 75-80, I feel like I should be taken out. You have to be thinking about the next game."
USA Baseball encourages a three-month offseason, but showcases for scouts and travel baseball have grown.
"Guys aren't multi-sport athletes anymore. They're playing baseball twelve months of the year," says Boylan head baseball coach Matt Weber.
OrthoIllinois surgeon Dr. Jon Whitehurst is a sports medicine specialist, and says he commonly performs arthroscopic shoulder labral procedures that stem from players overusing and pitching too much.
"The attachment site of the biceps will peel back off the top of the socket, and then we'll have to go in and reattach it," Whitehurst said.
Tommy John surgery, an operation used to repair the elbow's ulnar collateral ligament, has risen by almost 200% between 2002 and 2011, according to a Columbia University Medical Center study. The growth was predominantly in those aged 17-18 and 19-20. Even that isn't a guarantee for future success, though.
"There's no surgery that's 100%," Whitehurst added. "It's not a done deal that you're going to get back."