It’s that time of year again, the sun is bright, the smell of hotdogs wafts in the air, and baseball is in full swing. It’s estimated that 6 million children ages 6-17 participate in organized youth baseball leagues across the country. This is a great time to get the family together and cheer on your favorite athlete! Playing sports can be fun, and the health benefits gained from playing are great, but playing can carry a risk of potential injury if the athlete is not properly prepared.
The most common injuries found in youth baseball players are to their shoulders and elbows1, with pitchers receiving the greatest number of injuries. The combination of a pitcher’s excessive repetitive shoulder movement, muscle tightness, rapid bone growth, and under-developed neuromuscular movement patterns put an adolescent athlete at risk of upper extremity injury2. Each of these factors alone, or combined with improper throwing, can place extreme forces along the shoulder and elbow.
Most young athletes will complain of shoulder pain earlier in the season, and elbow pain as the season progresses3. The overwhelming cause that leads to shoulder and elbow injury is overuse. Pitching too much in a short time-span with insufficient rest periods, has been shown to lead to injury. Current recommendations from the American Sports Medicine Institute for youth pitchers can be found here: http://www.asmi.org/research.php?page=research§ion=positionStatement
If your little athlete reports that they are feeling shoulder and/or elbow pain, it should not be ignored. Ignoring these early warnings can have a detrimental effect, which may lead to serious injury. By seeking out a licensed physical therapist at Foothills Sports Medicine before the injury develops they will be able to identify possible causes contributing to the athlete’s pain. A physical therapist will develop a plan with you to get your athlete back to their peak playing performance. This plan may include rest, comprehensive strength training and throwing program, or laying out return-to-play criteria for their safe return to the field.
At Foothills Sports Medicine, we offer a FREE Rapid Recovery Injury Assessment. Before the pain progresses, we recommend an assessment so we assess the injury and explain how physical therapy helps eliminate shoulder and elbow pain. This will help identify possible deficiencies, and prevent future injuries. Knowledge of common risk factors, impairments, and effective interventions can prevent or minimize the impact of these injuries.
- Yang, Jingzhen, Barton J. Mann, Joseph H. Guettler, Jeffrey R. Dugas, James J. Irrgang, Glenn S. Fleisig, and John P. Albright. “Risk-Prone Pitching Activities and Injuries in Youth Baseball.” The American Journal of Sports Medicine 42.6 (2014): 1456-463. Print.
- Shanley, Ellen, PT, OCS, CSCS, and Chuck Thigpen, PT, ATC. “Throwing injuries in the adolescent athlete.” International Journal of sports and Physical Therapy 8.5 (2013): 630-40. Web
- Shanley, Ellen, Mitchell J. Rauh, Lori A. Michener, and Todd S. Ellenbecker. “Incidence of Injuries in High School Softball and Baseball Players.” Journal of Athletic Training 46.6 (2011): 648-54. Web
- Ray, Tracy R. “Youth Baseball Injuries: Recognition, Treatment, and Prevention.” American College of Sports Medicine (2010): 294-98. Print.