I have endured numerous baseball seasons with three active sons involved in the sport. I have seen a variety of injuries sustained on the field, not just by my kids, but by the other players as well. (The most notable injury sustained by one of my boys was off the field when he got his finger stuck in the door jam of the port-a-potty door. The game was temporarily suspended until that was freed! He was extremely embarrassed!) Chief among the most common types of sporting injuries in young kids is little league elbow. (Although I think this injury should be followed up “Mom’s Sore Hindquarters” from countless hours spent on unforgiving bleachers in the hot sun!)
In short, little league elbow is a pain in the elbow that is brought on my repetitive throwing. (How about finding a term like “little league mouth” for those overly-aggressive parents who repetitively throw words at coaches during intense games?) For the most part, little league elbow is mostly seen in young baseball pitchers before they hit puberty.
What happens with this type of injury is that the ligament that is attached to the inner side of the elbow will start to pull one of the growth plates away from the bone. These growth plates are weak and more prone to injury because they are still developing. There are certain types of throwing styles that can lead to little league elbow, such as throwing too hard or too frequently. If a pitcher greatly increases the number of his pitches all of a sudden, he can be prone to this injury. The proverbial curve balls and sliders pitched at an early age can also contribute to little league elbow. Further, when a pitcher begins to pitch from a mound farther away than usual or from an elevated mound, this can bring on the injury.
The basic demographics for this type of injury include those children 10-15 years of age and usually affects boys more than girls, as boys are typically the ones in the position of baseball pitcher.
When little league elbow first presents, the patient may notice pain around the bony area on the inside of the elbow. Swelling may occur, and the pitcher may notice pain when throwing over handedly. It may become difficult to grip or carry heavy objects.
Treatment for this type of sports injury includes a break from pitching and perhaps a recommendation from the doctor that the patient not participate in any sports until the pain goes away. An ice pack placed on the affected area up to four times daily for 15-20 minutes can ease the pain and swelling.
Before administering any pain medications, talk to your doctor first for exact recommendations. Your doctor may also suggest physical therapy once the pain has subsided. Strength exercises are usually a great way to get the elbow back in good condition. When returning to the pitcher’s mound, it is best to do so gradually. Throw a few pitches as opposed to several dozen. Although rare, surgical intervention is an option to reattach the ligament and the bony fragment.
To prevent little league elbow, it is important to properly warm up first. Stretch your muscles slowly and gently before heading out to the pitcher’s mound. To avoid overuse, do not play in more than one baseball league at a time. Try to limit your pitching to no more than 10 innings each week. Learn and implement good pitching techniques. Wait until high school to pitch those fancy curve balls and sliders. By that time, the child’s growth plate should be fused to the bone.
Above all, enjoy the game! It is all about having fun!
(Information for this article was found at www.aurorahealthcare.org)