Baseball and softball season is upon us! Children are returning to activities after months of social distancing. While everyone is excited to get back into the swing of things, be aware of the symptoms of Little League Elbow in your softball, baseball, and tennis players.
What is Little League Elbow?
Little League Elbow is a condition where the growth plate on the inner side of the elbow becomes inflamed after over use and repetitive stress. This growth plate is the attachment site for the muscles that rotate the forearm and flex the wrist. Eventually, these growth plates in an adult harden into solid bone, whereas children and teenagers’ growth plates are not fully developed, putting them at higher risk for pain and injury.
What causes Little League Elbow?
Little League Elbow is caused by the repetitive overhand throwing of a baseball/softball, playing tennis, etc. Baseball and softball pitchers are at higher risk for developing Little League Elbow since they are throwing the ball more than an infielder or outfielder.
How do I know if my child has Little League Elbow?
Your child may be experiencing Little League Elbow if they complain of pain in the inside of their elbow, swelling, limited range of motion, or locking of the elbow. The condition is usually diagnosed by a physician based on medical history, x-ray imaging, and a discussion about what sports the child plays and what symptoms they are experiencing.
How do I treat my child’s Little League Elbow?
If your child has been experiencing symptoms of Little League Elbow for 4-6 weeks with little relief, it is important to seek the help of an orthopedic physician – sooner if they are unable to fully bend or straighten their elbow. Orthopedic physicians specialize in treating children whose growth plates are still developing. If caught early, Little League Elbow will typically heal and not cause any permanent elbow damage. If left untreated, progression of Little League Elbow can lead to tendon tears and disruption of bone growth (which can lead to deformity). The physician will determine the best plan of treatment for your child which may include a break from the activity causing the pain, ice to reduce swelling, anti-inflammatory medications, casting, and in rare cases, surgery.
How do I prevent my child from getting Little League Elbow?
- Before participation in activities, it’s important that your child stretches properly to help reduce injury. Stretching should be done before and after activity.
- Help your child understand proper throwing form. One technique is having the child stand next to the wall and have them perform the throwing motion. This exercise helps the child to throw over hand versus a side throw – side throws put more strain on the elbow.
- Your child should rest for a full 24 hours after a game or practice.
- Help your child avoid overpitching, which is now feasible with the rules in the baseball leagues. The general guidelines for kids under 10 is 75 pitches per week, under 12 is 100 pitches per week, and 14 and under recommended is 125 pitches or less.