For pitchers at all levels, building confidence after injury takes time

ASK CAL

Youth sports

February 25, 2007|By CAL RIPKEN JR.

DEAR CAL -- My son fractured his right elbow last summer pitching in an all-star game. He was 13 at the time and throwing 72-75 mph. After two surgeries and numerous casts, he is at his baseline for flexion and extension. The doctor said he has no restrictions. He played basketball this season and had no problems. Baseball season is approaching and he is getting very anxious about playing, but does not want to pitch. We have offered to send him to pitching camp just to help him regain some of his confidence. We don't care if he pitches, but you can't play baseball without throwing. We want to give him as much support and encouragement without smothering him, but it is hard to see him with this lack of confidence and fear of re-injury. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Lori J. Holtz, Milwaukee

DEAR LORI -- It takes a long time for any pitcher to come back after surgery for the first time. My advice is to take it very slowly. Let's put pitching aside for now and try some soft tossing and throwing that can gradually be stretched out to longer tossing.

I would suggest that you be sensitive to your son's anxieties. At first have him start throwing away from his teammates, so that he can throw softly and test himself in a comfortable environment. From that point on, you can meet with an athletic trainer or physical therapist to determine how to gradually increase the frequency and intensity of the throwing program.

Please have him take comfort in the fact that this happens to everyone who undergoes elbow surgery. I've seen big league pitchers in complete fear of turning it loose after their first injury and having to be coaxed back to the mound by the athletic trainers. The fear is real, and it should be. When the time comes for your son to throw at full speed, it will be the right time because it will be his choice.

DEAR CAL -- I have a 12-year-old boy who plays baseball and basketball. But my question isn't about him, it's about his 9-year-old sister, who doesn't play any sports. I'm a single parent and have to take her to all her brother's games and she hates it. She throws a tantrum before we go, and after we get there she's such a pill I hardly get to watch any of his games. Every once in a while I set her up at a friend's house, but I can't do that every game. Is there anything I can do?

Debbie Hayes, Austin, Texas

DEAR DEBBIE -- I think you have to put yourself in your 9-year-old's shoes and ask yourself what is the value to your daughter of going to the games. Maybe you can promise to stop by the ice cream shop before or after the game. I guess that's a bribe in some ways, but it gives her something exciting to associate with her brother's games.

Another possible solution is to see if there are any other girls her age or about her age hanging around at the games. Maybe she can find a new friend with whom she can look forward to playing. Or perhaps you can form a bond with one of the parents so that he or she can take your son to the games early and transport him home. That way you will still get to see the game, but will be shortening the amount of time your daughter actually has to spend at the gym or field.

Many times you have to get your child to a game at least a half-hour early and then wait around after while the coach talks to the players. That can turn an hour commitment into two hours or more. Finding someone to help with your son's transportation will give you the flexibility to arrive later and to possibly step out to spend some time with your daughter. That flexibility should allow you to see the majority of the games and still keep your daughter happy.

Have a question or issue arising from your involvement in youth sports? Send it by e-mail to askcal@baltimoresun.com.

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