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It’s Baseball Season!
As many of you know opening day was last week, beginning of the professional baseball leagues regular season. Those of you with children know that the little league season has begun as well! As your children have started the season have you noticed:
- Complaints of elbow pain?
- Clutching of the elbow?
- Pain during or after pitching?
If so your child may be suffering from Little Leaguer’s Elbow.
What is Little Leaguer’s Elbow?
Little Leaguer’s Elbow is an overuse syndrome, found to be a common complaint, among adolescent baseball players. Most common in pitchers, pain can be reported on the inner or outer aspect of the elbow. The repetitive stress from throwing can result in inflammation and irritation of the growth plate on the inside of the elbow. Given that the growth plate is vulnerable, in skeletally immature individuals, an avulsion fracture of the medial epicondyle can occur.
Who is at Risk?
- Primarily pitchers, 9-14 years of age
- Adolescent baseball players regardless of position are susceptible
- Adolescent athletes that participate in overhead sports (For example, volleyball players and football quarterbacks)
- Athletes experiencing growth spurts
- Athletes that “specialize” in only one sport, with little rest
What are the Symptoms of Little Leaguer’s Elbow?
- Tenderness and swelling of the inner or outer aspect of the elbow (the medial or lateral epicondyle)
- Laxity or pain at the elbow during throwing activities or while applying medial stress to the joint
- Popping, clicking or locking may be noticed with range of motion of the elbow
How do you Treat Little Leaguer’s Elbow?
Conservative care is appropriate when symptoms are present without radiographic evidence of avulsions fracture. At this point activity modifications can be made, including: teaching proper throwing mechanics, decreasing pitching time and avoiding throwing curve balls. Chiropractic modalities including joint mobilization, soft tissue work (Active Release Technique and/or Graston Technique) and taping techniques can be beneficial in healing and getting back to the game! Strength training and conditioning are important in prevention and recovery, while one may be taking a break from pitching, training is still encouraged. Furthermore, playing different sports throughout the year with strength and conditioning is important when it comes to preventing overuse syndromes.
An orthopaedic consultation may be warranted when an avulsion of the growth plate is confirmed radiographically.
Sports and Little Leaguer’s Elbow
If early signs of little leaguer’s elbow are present, it is important that proper rest and care is taken to prevent risk of fracturing the growth plate, bone chips and early signs of arthritis. Proper mechanics should be taught including the use of the trunk and legs while pitching to be less dependent on the elbow and wrist. Whipping or snapping of the elbow or wrist should be avoided.
Coaches, players or parents should keep a pitch count and track the amount of games played during the season. There is a direct correlation between pitch count and elbow pain. While Little League rules are in place they are not always followed, so keeping track on your own if needed is important. For more information on how to “pitch smart,” click here!
To find tips on prevention, maximum pitch counts and pitch age recommendations at Stop Sports Injuries.
For any questions regarding Little League Elbow reach out to a Grove Spine & Sports team member today!
Souza, T. A., & Souza, T. A. (2005). Differential diagnosis and management for the chiropractor: Protocols and algorithms (4th ed.). Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.
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