What Every Baseball Player Should Know About Elbow Pain

What Every Baseball Player Should Know About Elbow Pain

Playing baseball, America’s sport, brings enjoyment but also risk of injury, as with any sport. Baseball players are especially prone to elbow pain because throwing the ball adds extra stress on the throwing arm. Our team of board-certified physicians at Urgently Ortho in Scottsdale, Arizona, provides expert care for children and adults with elbow pain stemming from overuse. 

Baseball isn’t the only sport responsible for elbow injuries; it’s also seen in tennis players, golfers, and those playing other sports in which the arm is used repeatedly.  

Elbow injuries caused by overuse

Overuse injuries to the elbow can have deleterious effects, especially on younger players. Youth team sports have grown to be serious business. Many young players are on travel teams by the time they’re 9 years old, with 26 percent of 9- to 12-year-old players reporting elbow pain.  

If treatment isn’t provided in a timely manner, and if a young player continues playing through the pain, he may develop “little league elbow,” or medial epicondyle apophysitis, an overuse injury that can cause complications described below. It’s damage to a growth plate on the inside of your child’s elbow. The growth plate is at the end of the bone, where the bone is weakest but where bone growth occurs. The elbow becomes inflamed, swollen, and painful. 

Treatment requires resting the arm, meaning no throwing and possibly rest from other activities that involve the arm. Your child may also be prescribed a few weeks of physical therapy to regain range of motion and strength. Anywhere from four to six weeks of rest and rehab is typical if the injury is minor.  

If your child’s injury is more severe, the growth plate may begin to dislodge from the bone. In that case, surgery may be required to reattach the cartilage. He could be off the field for as long as six months. If the bone damage is severe, he may have bone chips floating in the joint. This type of injury also usually leads to surgery. 

Adults’ growth plates are already developed, so the stress to the arm is located on tendons and ligaments; soft tissue injuries such as tendonitis or a stretched ligament are frequent overuse complaints. 

Preventing elbow overuse injuries 

The first line of defense against injuries is awareness of what can happen if you or your child play through the pain. Knowledge is power. Explain to your young player that he can knock himself off the field for a season if he continues to play when he has elbow pain. 

Taking yourself out of the game and making a doctor’s appointment when you feel pain will get you back in the game much more quickly than ignoring the symptoms. Check in frequently with your child to ensure he’s not having elbow pain if he plays baseball or another sport that uses the arm in a repetitive motion.

Warming up before playing baseball is critical. Your child’s coach should prescribe warmup activities. Have your child do them before at-home practice.

Make sure your child’s league has pitch count rules. At the minimum, there should be a maximum number of pitches your child can throw in a week if he’s a pitcher.    

Call or message Urgently Ortho for an appointment for yourself or your child if you’re experiencing musculoskeletal pain. We quickly diagnose and treat the problem to ensure you’re on a path to recovery. 

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