The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) warns that millions of little leaguers are putting themselves at risk for injury in their attempt to throw the fastest and farthest.
It has been estimated that 2.2 million children between the ages of 4 and 16 are participating in baseball annually. Kids between the ages of 9 and 14 who throw breaking balls, pitch in showcases to display their skills and fundamentals, or, more importantly, pitch too frequently without adequate rest, are the most vulnerable to injury.
Pitcher’s Elbow is a chronic inflammation of the growth plate on the elbow joint, which manifests itself as pain and swelling inside the elbow. Approximately 50% of little leaguers ages 9 to 14 will experience elbow pain. Those who continue to pitch through the pain can eventually cause the growth plate to separate from the joint, requiring surgery to re-attach it.
Routinely players will go from a game in one league to a practice or game in another league and pitch on back-to-back days. If coaches on both teams are unaware of the fact that the pitcher just pitched for another league, there will be a misrepresentation of league pitch counts and a subsequent increase to one’s risk for injury.
It is important for players and parents to let their coaches know if they have been pitching in multiple events and if they are experiencing pain.
- Age. Youth baseball players are at greater risk because their elbow joint (bones, growth plates, and ligaments) are not fully developed and are more susceptible to overuse injuries.
- Pitching too many games. The number of games pitched should be carefully monitored and follow the league’s pitch count rules. If pain occurs before the pitch count limit is reached, then the player should stop immediately. Rotating pitchers during games is a good idea to ensure adequate rest is given to each pitcher.
- Curveballs and breaking pitches. Both of these types of pitches appear to put more stress on the growth plate than other types of pitches.
- Improper mechanics. Proper throwing mechanics decreases forces on the elbow joint.
Resources: American Physical Therapy Association, Pitcher’s Elbow,http://moveforwardpt.com, 8/28/2012.