Baseball season is in full swing. Whether you play the game or watch from the sidelines, baseball is loved by many.
Playing baseball comes with certain risks of injury, as does any sport, but there is one condition in particular that gets its name from the game: pitcher’s elbow, also called little league elbow, because it often affects young athletes who are just learning to pitch. The repetitive throwing motion wears down the elbow joint, causing a growth plate injury, but this can be prevented with some simple strategies.
Parents all across the country enjoy watching their kids learn the game and develop a love for baseball. But getting an elbow injury will quickly end that love affair. Not only will it take them out of the game, but arm injuries have a huge effect on everyday life, making it painful to write and sleep, let alone throw a ball.
Little league elbow causes pain on the inside of the elbow. It can also become painful to move the elbow, and the joint may lock up or feel stuck. The pain might develop gradually or come on suddenly while pitching. Severe cases of pitcher’s elbow may need surgical treatment to repair the growth plate, but physical therapy is effective for most cases.
Here are 5 ways to keep your little slugger healthy:
Practice safe pitching. Curve balls and breaking pitches should not be used before age 14; fastball and change-up pitches should be mastered first by young pitchers. Throwing curve balls increases stress on the inner elbow if not done properly. Be sure to alternate the style of pitch as well. A physical therapist or athletic trainer can evaluate how your child throws and show him how to avoid injury and improve his performance.
Always warm up. If muscles are warm and loose, there is less risk of injury. Ask the coach or trainer to show your child specific exercises to loosen up his arms.
Take breaks. Overuse injuries in the shoulder and elbow are very common. Don’t let your child end up on the sidelines for an injury that could have been prevented by taking a break every once in a while. Have someone track the number of pitches per day.
For more information, read the American Academy of Pediatrics’ guidelines for little league.
Do strength exercises. There are many muscles, tendons, and ligaments that surround the shoulder and elbow joints, providing support and stability. Strong arm muscles are critical to keeping the rotator cuff, shoulder joint, and elbow joint protected from injury.
Stop pitching at the first sign of pain. Resting, ice packs, and stretching should help relieve some pain and swelling until your child can see a doctor. An X-ray should be performed to check for growth plate damage/fracture. Little league elbow rarely causes permanent damage, but your child may need surgery if the injury is not treated properly.
You want your kids to give 110% on the field, so use these tips to help them perform their best and avoid injury. Little kids especially need careful evaluation of sports injuries. Their bodies are still growing, and they tend to heal faster; however, if an injury does not heal completely or properly, it could take years for them to fully recover.
At Meli Orthopedic Centers of Excellence, our pediatric orthopedic specialist knows the most about sports injuries like little league elbow. Dr. Mark Moran is fellowship trained and board certified in pediatric orthopedic care. If your child needs to see a doctor, please call our offices in Fort Lauderdale or Margate to schedule a visit with Dr. Moran.