Pitch Perfect: Understanding Throwing Injuries

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Warm weather means more outdoor sports and that means a greater chance of injury. For young athletes — especially baseball pitchers — it’s important to know the signs, symptoms, and treatment of one of the most common types of throwing injuries.

“Pitcher’s Elbow” or “Little Leaguer Elbow” is a condition caused by the stress of repetitive overhand throwing. The motion and force of throwing creates an extreme pull on the tendons and ligaments of the elbow, resulting in inflammation and pain, restricted range of motion, and intermittent locking of the elbow joint.

Though common, Pitchers Elbow can evolve into a serious condition if aggravated or left untreated. Repeated pulling can tear ligaments and tendons away from the bone and in some cases, even dislodge tiny fragments of bone in the process. Over time, the damage can interfere with normal bone development and cause deformity in the growth plate of the elbow.

Treatment and Recovery

For mild cases of Pitcher’s Elbow, treatment is non-surgical and involves a combination of rest, the application of ice packs to reduce swelling, and focused work with a physical therapist to improve strength and flexibility. More involved cases may require surgery to remove bone fragments, perform bone grafting, or reattach ligaments.

Prevention

The best preventative measure is to minimize stress on the elbow joint by limiting exposure. General guidelines suggest that children between the ages of 8-10 can safely throw about 75 pitches per week. No more than 100 pitches per week is the recommendation for 11-12 year olds, and a maximum of 125 per week for 13 and 14 year olds.

The team at Steindler Orthopedic Clinic can diagnose and treat Pitcher’s Elbow and reduce the risk of further injury. Keep the young athlete in your family throwing happily (and safely!); call (319) 338-3606 to schedule an appointment.