Little league elbow is an overuse injury that tends to affect youth baseball pitchers and other athletes that throw a lot at a young age and the pain is felt on the inside of the elbow of growing pitchers. The growth plate on the inside of the elbow is called the medial epicondyle, and it becomes inflamed during overuse. Little league elbow is a apophysis which is just inflammation of a growth plate. Elbow pain in a young athlete is commonly similar to knee pains from growing.
Causes of Little League Elbow
The repetitive throwing of a baseball is often the cause of this injury. During lateral throws, the lateral side of the elbow gets compressed while the inside of the elbow receives traction placed on it. The constant repetitive stress on the medial elbow causes the growth plate to become irritated. In adult pitchers, these injuries manifest itself as a Tommy John surgery.
Anatomy of Little League Elbow
The elbow is a joint where the humerus, meets with the ulna and the radius bones. There are many muscles, ligaments, tendons and nerves around the joint that contribute to its stability and function. There are also growth plates in the area that are yet to fuse in adolescents so that they can still grow. Those unfused growth plates represent a huge weak point. The late cocking and early acceleration phases of the baseball pitch are the ones that do the most damage and cause little league elbow.
Little League Elbow and The Pitch Count
The injury shows up when a youth pitcher throws too many balls in one game or when they play too many games in a row. Making more throws than the growth plate can handle leads to injury each and every time. Other factors include playing in more than one baseball league at a time as well as throwing more strenuous pitches like the curveball. It is always a good idea to hold a young pitcher back. The tendency is when you see talent, one may tend to push that athlete more, and youth are still up for it because they may think they are invincible.
Prevention of Little League Elbow
When to Introduce Pitches
8 Yrs Old – Fastball
10 Yrs Old – Change-Up
14 yrs Old – Curve Ball
15 Yrs Old – Knuckle Ball
16 yrs Old – Slider + Fork Ball + Splitter
17 Yrs Old – Screw Ball
*No Breaking Pitches Until Mature
Pitch Count By Age
8 – 10 Yrs Old = 50 Pitches
11 – 14 yrs Old = 75 pitches
15-16 = 90 pitches
17-18 = 105 pitches
- Only pitch for nine months of the year max
- During rest, time avoid throwing and overhead work
- Choose one league
- Year-round conditioning for fitness
- Get treatment for any little league elbow pain right away
Diagnosing Little League Elbow
Little League Elbow is commonly found in pitchers under the age of 15. The pain will be concentrated on the medial elbow. It usually gets worse as more innings are thrown and often comes after an increase in the volume of pitches. When pain starts, it is best to treat the injury early. The longer you wait, the worse it will get.
Athletes need to be seen by a qualified sports medicine professional. It also not uncommon for there to be growth play issues on the lateral side of the elbow from all of the compression that repetitively takes place.
Imaging for Little League Elbow
A doctor may order that an athlete go in for an X-ray. Most of the time X-rays appear to be normal, but there are times when they are not, and they reveal fractures and other problems going on. In some cases, a doctor may even order an MRI to get a more detailed look at the injury.
Treatment for Little League Elbow
The key to recovering from this Little League Elbow is rest. Pitchers that are good may have a hard time with this and find sneaky ways to keep throwing. It is vital that you explain to them that their injury is an overuse injury that can have a significant impact on their abilities to pitch when they get older.
One of the best things a pitcher can focus on during this time is developing their core strength. The better the core is, the easier it is to be stable with the spine and throw with much better machines. The core is often neglected in youth sports.
After 6 to 8 weeks of rest, throwing can be started again. You should focus on building back into throwing again slowly. The goal of the entire process is to be pain-free. If you throw a pitch and the elbow hurts, it means you are moving too fast through the process.
It is easier to work with a sports medicine professional through this. They can make sure that you are always running at a reasonable speed. You need to find the right balance between pushing yourself to improve but not pushing yourself so hard that you get injured again.
Return to Play for Pitchers with Little League Elbow
After about 12 weeks of rest and rehab pitchers should be able to start throwing in a game setting again. It is essential that you do no go over your pitch count for your age. The goal is to ramp back into games slowly. Remember that your baseball career is a marathon and not a sprint. You want to be able to pitch when you are an adult as well.
Finding The Best Local Sports Medicine Providers for Little League Elbow
Kho Health is the best place to start your search for a health care provider to help you stay healthy. The key to success as an athlete is staying healthy and making sure the injuries are dealt with appropriately. Any athlete that throws a lot is at more risk of a little league elbow, and the key to success as an athlete is staying healthy.
Kho Health lets you search for providers by type and skill. For example, you can look for a Physical Therapist with any skill set you need. It does not matter what kind of provider you need, Kho Health can help you find them and help you to sort through their skills.
If you are unsure where to start your journey, Kho Health will ask you questions and help you figure out the best starting place. All you have to do is answer a few questions. From there, Kho Health will connect you with the type of provider best suited for your needs. It does not matter if you are injured or making sure you don’t run into little league elbow issues.
The platform makes it easy to compare health providers as they are all given a Kho Number. How do you decide which healthcare providers are the best? Reading bios and reviews is just not enough because you need more than that.
Skill Sets to Look for In Sports Medicine Providers When Dealing with Little League Elbow
Skill sets are the things healthcare providers learn after they graduate. A healthcare provider can take courses and get certifications for different skill sets. These skill sets are valuable and help them approach injuries from different perspectives so that you can get the best help at the right time for any little league elbow issues.
- Dry needling
- Joint Manipulation
- Active Release Technique
- Graston Technique
- Functional Movement Screen
- Fascial Stretching
- Strength and Conditioning Coach
- Athletic Trainer
- Sports Background
- And many more