With spring comes baseball and softball, and millions of people hit diamonds every week to participate in these great American pastimes. Unfortunately, there are also thousands of throwing athletes who hurt themselves while playing, and many of these injuries are preventable. Little League elbow and Little League shoulder, the names by which throwing-related injuries are collectively known, cause needless impairment and pain for countless children and teens.
If you have a baseball or softball player in your family, you will want to ensure they are protected from needless harm. Below is more information about throwing injuries, including why they occur and how to prevent them.
Basic Shoulder and Elbow Anatomy
There are several bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons that work in concert during a throwing motion. The shoulder itself is a joint between the upper arm bone, the humerus, and the shoulder blade. Four muscles, collectively known as the rotator cuff, provide critical support and allow for movement of the shoulder. In addition, a small circular piece of cartilage, the labrum, helps hold the humerus in place.
Multiple bones and muscles join together to form the elbow, which is a hinge joint. The humerus, as well as two lower arm bones, the ulna and the radius, provide rigidity. The collateral and annular ligaments help keep the bones joined together and provide structural support.
How Throwing Injuries Result
If improperly managed, repetitive motions, such as throwing a baseball or softball, can lead to injuries of the shoulder and elbow. Below are several specific ways throwing injuries can occur to younger athletes, especially.
The most common reason for throwing injuries is simply overuse of the arm. Too many throws in a short period of time can cause inflammation of ligaments, tendinitis, bursitis, and nerve irritation, not to mention shoulder pain.
Another common cause of throwing injuries is inadequate warm-up and stretching. This leads to muscle tightness which can cause tears and other soft tissue injuries.
A painful problem caused by too much throwing is abnormal bone growth within the elbow. This occurs whenever ulnar cartilage is worn away and bare-bones rub against one another; bony growths, known as spurs, are the result and lead to pain.
Poor Throwing Mechanics
Another cause of throwing-related injury is poor technique. Throwing, particularly pitching, places strain on the arm, and deviation from the correct form can allow stresses to exceed what the body can tolerate.
How to Prevent Throwing Injuries
The good news is that throwing injuries are almost always preventable, and parents, coaches, and other responsible adults can take action to protect young throwing athletes from harm. Here are some specific things you can do to prevent Little League elbow and Little League shoulder from ruining the experience for children and teens.
Monitor Your Athlete’s Condition
Parents and coaches should take the initiative to closely monitor the throwing athlete’s physical condition. As such, periodically check to see if their arm is tired and emphasize to children and teens the need to seek rest if they become weary. Set an expectation that taking necessary breaks is not only acceptable, it is also imperative.
Incorporate Extended Rest Periods
Another way to help prevent throwing injuries is by implementing extended rest periods for throwing athletes. Overuse injuries are reduced when athletes throw for no more than eight months of the year; that means children and teens should avoid throwing for at least four months out of the year.
Adhere to Pitch Counts and Rest Day Guidelines
The establishment of pitch counts and rest days may be viewed by some as obstacles to winning, but wise parents and coaches understand they are necessary for protecting young athletes from injury. Always adhere to the pitch count and rest day guidelines established by your local leagues, and recognize that circumventing protective rules ultimately hurts throwing athletes.
Focus on Proper Throwing Mechanics
As discussed, poor technique can result in injury to young arms. That’s why athletes should be taught the proper fundamentals and spend considerable time practicing them. Learning how to throw the correct way can go a long way toward preventing throwing injuries.
Seeking Medical Help
Throwing injuries should never be treated lightly, and if your young athlete complains of pain or severe soreness, numbness, restriction of motion, or other symptoms, you should contact a medical professional immediately. Examination, diagnosis, and treatment may need to be implemented to prevent further injury and to allow your child to begin recovery.
Also, keep in mind the value of seeking help from a physical therapist. Such therapists can develop plans to improve the child’s strength, range of motion, and posture, as well as decrease pain. In addition, therapists are able to identify other possible impairments that might cause future injuries or pain.
Cawley Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation understands the needs of young athletes. If you need assistance, don’t hesitate to call us at (570) 208-2787.