Little League Elbow: The Painful Side Of Having A Great Pitching Arm


For many Little League baseball players, there is nothing more rewarding than striking out the opponent. Unfortunately, Little League pitchers between the ages of 10-15, especially those who favor throwing curve balls and/or sliders, are at risk of developing a disorder known as little league elbow.

Cause of Little League Elbow

Little League elbow is a disorder caused by injuries to a group of soft cartilage cells known as the growth plate. The growth plate is in the elbow area, between the upper arm bone (humerus) and the bottom arm bone (ulna). The growth plate is not fully developed in children, so continued tightness, combined with repetitious movement, such as pitching, weakens the cartilage and causes it to tear away from the ulna.

Symptoms of Little League Elbow

The most common symptom of Little League elbow is pain that extends between the elbow and wrist, on the same side as your little finger. Although the symptoms may vary from person to person, some of the symptoms may include:

  • Pain in the elbow
  • Tenderness and swelling in the inner part of the elbow
  • Weakness and/or tightness in the forearm
  • Difficulty moving the hand and/or elbow
  • Increased pain when applying pressure to the area, shaking hands, throwing a ball or picking up objects.

Treating the Injury

The type of treatment and the amount of time for recovery depend on the severity of the injuries. The most common forms of treatment for Little League elbow include:

  • Resting- do not participate in activities that may cause pain, especially pitching. Avoid playing baseball or other sports until the pain is gone.
  • Cold compress- applying an ice pack to the injured area may help to reduce the pain and swelling.
  • Medications, such as Acetaminophen or non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) can help to reduce the pain and inflammation.
  • Counter-force brace- a sports medicine physician may recommend a counter-force brace for the forearm, which limits the force produced by the forearm muscles and helps prevent further damage.
  • Physical therapy may be required for strengthening exercises.
  • Heat is sometimes applied to the elbow when returning to physical activity to help with the stretching.
  • Surgery-your child's doctor may recommend surgery to reattach the shattered bone and ligament fragments.
  • Cortisone injections are sometimes used to reduce the pain and inflammation.

There are several steps your child can take to reduce the risk of developing Little League elbow, including warm-up exercises and stretching before playing. It is important to develop a good technique that prevents excess stress on the elbow and wrist, such as following the pitching limits per game and avoiding pitching curve balls and/or sliders. A sports trainer or sports medicine physician can often suggest various techniques that may help to reduce stress on the growth plate.

To learn more about sports medicine, contact a doctor like Dr. Lisa M. Schoene


1 June 2015

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As a child, I used to spend my days roaming through the woods. I climbed trees, smelled the flowers, and laid in the grass looking at the clouds. My love for nature continued through my teen years, but when I turned 23, I began to sneeze whenever I left my home. I could no longer enjoy my outdoor hikes and I started taking antihistamines so I could at least open my windows on warm days. My allergies got worse though and I met with an allergist who completed a variety of skin tests. I started receiving allergy shots and my allergist taught me about natural cleaning processes and sinus rinses. The injections and natural treatments improved my quality of life greatly. Even if you do not want to start allergy injections, you have a variety of options that can lessen your symptoms, and you should learn what these options are.