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Strategies to Prevent Little League Elbow

Strategies to Prevent Little League Elbow

 If your Little League pitcher is also a Houston Astros fan, they may try to model their stats on Framber Valdez, who’s currently among the top 20 starting pitchers in Major League Baseball. 

However, neither dedication nor talent is enough to prevent a baseball throwing injury, like the sore elbow that took Valdez out of his game this April.

Unfortunately, 17-20% of all Little League throwers experience elbow pain. Recently, 26% of 9-12 year old baseball players complained of elbow pain.

As with pro athletes, Little Leaguers can experience serious injuries while throwing or pitching. The term “Little League Elbow” refers to an acute fracture in the bumpy bone just inside the elbow called the medial epicondyle. 

Both acute elbow fractures and overuse elbow injuries can do more than take your little pitcher out of their game. Little League Elbow could distort the bone growth process in children and adolescents and lead to long-term dysfunction.

David Lintner, MD, is a world-renowned sports medicine specialist who also serves as the head team physician for the Houston Astros. At Houston Methodist Orthopedics & Sports Medicine in Houston, Texas, Dr. Lintner specializes in treating, rehabbing, and preventing elbow injuries in throwing athletes of all ages. 

While sports injuries are a hazard of any game, you can take steps to prevent Little League elbow and other throwing injuries in your young athlete. Here’s how.

Pay attention to pitch count

Your athlete’s enthusiasm for their game may cause them to overdo it. If they’re talented, their coach may be tempted to use them in play more than is safe for their growing bones and muscles.

Work with your athlete, their coach, and the team’s pitch recorder to ensure they don’t overuse their pitching arm. Rest and recovery are just as important to athleticism as practice and play.

Depending on the age of your athlete, you and their coach should limit how many pitches they throw per day. Pitch count per age, according to Little League Guidelines are as follows:

When your athlete reaches their pitch maximum, they must stop pitching. Their coach can move them to another position. During a game, a scorekeeper or other game official should act as the official pitch count recorder. Encourage your athlete to count pitches during practice.

Rest counts

Rest days give your pitcher’s muscles, tendons, and ligaments a chance to rest, reset, and restore. Make sure your kids’ coach abides by Little League recommendations for rest days:

Aged 14 and under

Aged 15-16

On rest days, your athlete needs to let their arm recover and flush out lactic acid that remains in their muscles. They may go on a long run. A rest day is also a great time to work on core and lower-body strength.

Give their arm some TLC

A rest day can also be a rehab day to help sore muscles, tendons, and ligaments recover and repair. Massage, ice baths, and saunas can aid in recovery. Your athlete might also want to use sports tape to help stretch sore muscles.

If they’re sore, consider working with a physical therapist to help them heal before their next game. We also offer body mechanics evaluations to help your pitcher throw efficiently with the least possible risk of injury.

Take action for injuries

If your pitcher gets injured, come to our office for a diagnosis and treatment. Once we know the extent of the injury, we recommend supportive therapies and rehab to help their arms heal and regain strength, power, and flexibility.

Does your Little Leaguer have Little League Elbow? Contact our friendly and knowledgeable staff by phone or the online form for a baseball throwing injury evaluation and treatment today. If you’re far from the Houston area, you can send Dr. Lintner an MRI for a treatment recommendation.

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