by Andrew Songer PT, DPT | Glendale Location
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. It’s 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 adequately prepared.
The most common injuries in youth baseball players are to their shoulders and elbows, with pitchers receiving the most significant number of injuries. 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 injury. 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 progresses. The overwhelming cause that leads to shoulder and elbow injury is overuse. Pitching too much in a short period with insufficient rest periods has led to injuries. You can find the current recommendations for youth pitchers from the American Sports Medicine Institute.
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, we offer a FREE Rapid Recovery Injury Assessment. Before the pain progresses, we recommend an assessment to evaluate the injury and we educate on 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.