Little League Elbow
(Elbow, Little League; Medial Apophysitis; Overuse Elbow Injury Related to Throwing)
Little League elbow is pain in the elbow joint due to repetitive throwing. This injury occurs in young baseball pitchers before puberty.
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Little league elbow happens when the ligament attached to the inner side of the elbow starts to pull one of the growth plates away from the rest of the bone. Growth plates are weak and easily injured when a child's bones are still growing. Certain types of throwing may lead to this problem, such as:
- Throwing too hard and too often
- Increasing the number of pitches per week too quickly
- Throwing too many curves or sliders at a young age
- Changing to a league where the pitcher's mound is farther away from home plate or the mound is raised
This problem is more common in boys who are 10 to 15 years of age. The risk is higher in those who are pitchers, especially those who throw curve balls or sliders.
Problems may be:
- Pain around the bony knob on the inner side of the elbow
- Pain when throwing overhead
- Pain with gripping or carrying heavy objects
The doctor will ask about the child's symptoms and health history. Questions will also be asked about the child's activities. A physical exam will be done. It will focus on the elbow.
Pictures of the elbow may be taken. This can be done with an:
The goal of treatment is to ease pain and promote healing. Recovery time ranges from 6 weeks to 3 months.
- Supportive care, such as resting the elbow and using cold compresses to ease swelling
- Medicines to ease pain and swelling
- Physical therapy to promote strength, flexibility, and range of motion
Some children may need surgery. This is not common.
The risk of this problem may be lowered by:
- Following age based safety guidelines for the number of a child's games, innings, and pitches
- Not throwing curve balls or sliders until high school
- Warming up and stretching before activity
- Using proper pitching techniques
- Griffith TB, Kercher J, et al. Elbow Injuries in the Adolescent Thrower. Curr Rev Musculoskelet Med. 2018 Mar;11(1):35-47.
- Management of throwing injuries of the elbow. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/management/management-of-throwing-injuries-of-the-elbow.
- Throwing injuries in the elbow in children. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/throwing-injuries-in-the-elbow-in-children.
- Why counting pitches counts. The National Athletic Trainers' Association website. Available at: http://www.nata.org/nata-news-blog/why-counting-pitches-counts.
- Teresa Briedwell, PT, DPT, OCS
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