Why Softball Needs Pitch Counts

By: Ashley Sunshine

In episode 1 of the OGX Podcast we answered a question from Trisha Ford about whether or not softball should start considering pitch counts. She referenced the complexity of the pitching motion and how a lack of regulations seems disconnected from the info we now have about the position. This question sparked a great conversation amongst the OGX team (check out the episode if you haven’t already done so!), and I’d like to recap and elaborate on my own opinion.

Let’s start by talking about why, unlike baseball, softball pitching does not have any pitch count regulations. The root of this inequality comes back to the myth that the softball pitching motion is “natural”. This belief comes from a simplistic comparison to overhand throwing. Because of the underhand arm slot, we do not have the same level of elbow force as we see in baseball pitching, which is at the heart of their established culture around pitch counts and workload in general. But just because the elbow is not impacted the same way, does not mean the motion is natural. The softball pitching motion is the most physically complex movement in the game. Up until very recently, this concept has been wildly misunderstood. It is the only movement that requires double rotation while airborne, with the arm extended overhead. We now know that postural breakdowns are significant which leads to a cascade of compensations and inefficiencies throughout the body. The softball pitching motion is incredibly demanding. It not only requires a level of stability we don’t typically see until mid teenage years at the earliest, it is seemingly stuck under the myth of being “natural” when it comes to regulations such as pitch counts. 

In my opinion, enforcing pitch counts is an absolute must in our game. Not only would this level of regulation protect so many athletes, particularly at young ages, from injuries that are becoming more and more prominent, it would also promote larger staffs and an overall greater pool of pitchers in our game.  Because so many pitchers are “weeded out” of the position at very young ages simply by not being given adequate opportunities, we have too few pitchers at both the high school and college levels to support the workload demands of the game. 

Our number one objective here at OGX is to collect information and push education so we can  empower our athletes and help move the game forward. It is absolutely time for all of us to shed the myths about the pitching motion, advocate for the health of our young women, and demand that the position and the game evolve in the direction they deserve.