My son is a catcher/infielder that will be playing mainly catcher on his summer team. In both his HS and summer programs, there are a limited number of catchers so each one is getting a lot of work during bullpen sessions, in addition to in-game and regular practice work. While I often hear about pitch count limits for pitchers, I don't see much about limiting catchers' throws. Does anyone have advice on reasonable throwing limits for catchers?
I will be interested to see what comes from this thread. It really is tough to say what is reasonable but you know unreasonable when you see it! I know Little League had some rules around pitching/catching but that is the only set of rules I have encountered that speaks to catchers throwing. If I remember correctly, it didn't have any limits on catcher throws, just catching and pitching in the same game.
My son ran has run into this the past two springs. On his 14u team, the coaches really "needed" him in there. After a couple four game weekends, he was identified with "Little Leaguers Elbow" which meant we had to shut him down for the better part of a month--kind of a scary deal if you look at the google images. As a Freshman, he ran into a similar issue. When he told his coach that his elbow was hurting, he was told, "sucks to be you!" Fortunately, a different JV coach this year.
For me, the short story is, your catcher is going to have to advocate for himself much like if he was a pitcher.
I'm not aware of any rules that limit number of innings caught. I'm not sure that catching is all that hard on the arm either. It's a lot of throws, but very few are high effort. In HS, my son caught every game, although he'd usually catch only one game of a double header. In summer travel ball, he would usually alternate games with other catchers. Of course this helped get more kids exposure, but it also helped keep the catchers leg fresh so they would be effective at the plate.
My son was a HS and travel league catcher and sometimes he'd end up catching 3 or even 4 games in 2 days or HS games 4 days in a row. Invariably, his knees and elbow would start getting sore, but he only had significant discomfort once or twice. When that was happening and he still played in games, he'd throw pitches back to the pitcher with much less oomph and between inning throw downs too (like 2/3rds effort). The HC understood he knew what he was doing and when he needed to make a hard throw. You have to let your son be his own staunch advocate for his health.
My son caught his whole career which included little league, travel and D1. He did pace his throwing effort depending on game situation. He would many time just lob the ball back to the pitcher and 1/2 effort on the throw down between innings which worked a little as a decoy, lol. Over the years he did have issues where his arm would weaken during the course of the season. No pitch count was implemented but have him be mindful of his arm and how it feels. It is also just as important to have a strengthening program for a catcher and not just pitchers.
A good HC will pay attention and talk to his catchers about how they feel.
Catchers need to be honest and communicate how they feel physically
There's no reason to set any limits.
Thanks for all the great responses. Just to be clear, I wasn't suggesting that teams or organizations set hard limits on catcher's throws. Instead, I was just wondering how others have dealt with the issue in advising their sons. Like many on this board, I am dealing with a teenager that always wants to please his coaches and doesn't always know when to dial things back, even if its for his own good. I will have him read your posts and continue advocating for himself.