Little League Baseball is the largest program in youth-organized sports. Millions of kids participate in this team sport and enjoy the benefits of staying active, learning teamwork, and honing their physical skills. Becoming a pitcher is a coveted position for many children participating in Little League, but it can result in injuries for some players. If you have a child in Little League, especially in the pitcher position, you should know the signs of Little League Elbow.
What Is Little League Elbow?
Children are constantly growing, and their bones have growth plates that allow them to extend. On the inner elbow, there is a growth plate called the apophysis on the medial epicondyle. The forearm muscles are attached to the medial apophysis and put stress on the growth plate when a throwing motion is performed. A youngster throwing repeatedly can irritate the medical apophysis, resulting in pain and restricted movement. This is called medial apophysitis, also known as Little League Elbow.
Medial apophysitis occurs mostly in adolescents between the ages of 9-14. During these ages, the growth plate on the inside of the elbow is still developing, and it can be injured by repeated throwing movements. The number of throws per day that can result in Little League Elbow ranges from around 50 pitches in younger athletes to 95 in older children. However, any child can develop this condition when the wrong throwing mechanics or techniques.
Symptoms of Medial Apophysitis
Although medial apophysitis is common in baseball or softball, it can occur in any sport that puts stress on the inner elbow and medial apophysitis. It is common for young throwing athletes to experience soreness as they learn to pitch and different types of throwing techniques, but Little League Elbow is more pronounced and lasts longer. Some symptoms of this condition include:
- Pain inside the elbow
- Pain worsens when throwing
- Soreness usually begins when the number of throws or innings was recently increases
- Swelling on the inner elbow
- Tenderness at the growth plate
Many young athletes can recover from Little League Elbow by taking a break from throwing and allowing the growth plate to heal. Ice and rest, followed by strengthening exercises and improved throwing mechanics, are usually recommended in mild cases. However, the elbow should be examined by a sports medicine or orthopedic specialist. There are cases where the lateral (outer) growth plate is also inflamed, or there may be ligament or tendon damage at the connection sites.
Treatment for medial apophysitis rarely requires surgery, but it does happen. If your child is showing signs of moderate to severe Little League Elbow, it may be beneficial to seek the advice of a skilled sports medicine specialist. Johnathan L. Glashow, MD is a renowned sports medicine specialist and orthopedic surgeon who works with athletes of all levels, from Little League to MLB players. Contact our office in NYC to schedule an exam and consultation for your child with medial apophysitis.