Professional Baseball Strength & Conditioning

Pitch Limits in Girls Softball

Pitch Limits in Girls Softball
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Pitch Limits in Girls Softball

By Gene Coleman, Ed. D., RSCC*E

The Amateur Softball Association of American annually registers more than 83,000 girls’ softball teams comprising more than 1.2 million girls total, but there is limited research on the risk of injury to the throwing arm and shoulder of softball pitchers. While the assumption among many has been that the softball pitching motion is safe and natural and a girl can windmill endlessly without physical consequences, research indicates that this assumption is false. Medical research indicates that the maximum shoulder compression/distraction forces during the windmill pitch are comparable to those experienced during the baseball overhand throw and produce an increased risk of injury to the rotator cuff, glenoid labrum, biceps brachii muscle and elbow joint.

According to Nikhi Verma, MD, an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, who has done research of the windmill delivery – “Anything that you do that’s repetitive at that level with the type of force and velocity that these girls are generating puts you at risk for injury.” Her views are supported by James Andrews, MD renowned orthopedic surgeon to the pros. In his book, Any Given Monday, Andrews wrote – “There is a common belief that throwing underhand is a natural way to keep the player safe from injury, but this definitely is not true. The repeated movement and velocity of pitches thrown, even in the windmill style, are now even tearing the ‘Tommy John ligament,’ resulting in a UCL injury. Pitching limits matter in softball as much as they do in baseball.”

Andrews and other medical authorities strongly believe that pitch limits matter as much in softball as they do in baseball, but there are no universally recognized pitch limits for softball. Young baseball pitchers have pitch limits and are limited to how often they can pitch in a given week. Softball pitchers often average 90-100 pitchers per game and can pitch in 5-7 games over a weeklong period. This could to lead to 700 pitches or more in a week, not including practices. Authorities agree that pitch limits should be determined by factors such as age, physical condition, individual characteristics, fatigue, number of games pitched and total pitches in a set period of time.

Mechanics and fatigue are the biggest predictors of injury. Throwing multiple pitches over consecutive days has been shown to produce cumulative fatigue in the muscles of the arm and shoulder. Pitchers do not fully recover between consecutive games and often start the second game in a fatigued state. Fatigue has a negative effect on strength and pitching mechanics. Pitching with poor mechanics and loss of strength are the equivalent of trying to run with a rock in your shoe. There will be pain and significant increased risk of injury in those who try to pitch with pain.

While there is no universal agreement on pitch limits, some medical authorities recommend:

  • Pitchers 12 and under: no more than 500 pitches per week including full pitching at practice and lessons

  • Pitchers 13 and older: no more than 700 pitches per week including full pitching at practices and lessons

The Department of Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Institute at the University of Florida has published recommendations similar to the joint Pitch Smart recommendations by MLB and Baseball USA.


Maximum Pitch Counts




Total Day 1 & 2


Day 3

















Rest Periods

  • Once girls begin to play competitively, they often play two games per day on two or three consecutive days

  • Two days of rest for pitchers is essential to prevent injuries

Additional Guidelines

  • Girls less than 12 years: only 2 days of consecutive pitching

  • Girls older than 12 years: only 3 days of consecutive pitching

Rest means no live pitches, including batting practice, Pitchers may need to loosen up with a flexibility routine on the second rest day and can participate in hitting and field drills.


Gene Coleman, Ed. D., RSCC*E, FACSM has over four decades as a head strength and conditioning coach (Astros) and strength and conditioning consultant (Rangers). He is Professor Emeritus in the Exercise and Health Sciences Program at the University of Houston – Clear Lake and Website Education Manager

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