Why 50% of Youth Pitchers Suffer From Elbow Pain
This year nearly 50% of Little League pitchers will pitch with arm pain. Most of that arm pain will be at the elbow instead of the shoulder because most Little League pitchers cannot develop enough force to create shoulder problems. So the elbow, a smaller hinge joint takes the brunt of the stress of a Little League pitch.
So if your son or daughter is a Little League pitcher and complains about their elbow hurting, should you as a parent be concerned? You bet you should be.
The American Sports Medicine Institute in Birmingham headed by Dr. James Andrews has seen the rate of arm surgeries skyrocket 10 times over a recent seven year period. Even 10 year old pitchers are having Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery. And that all starts with elbow discomfort.
Those kids who have elbow pain are much more likely to need surgery
With young growing pitchers the elbow contains areas of soft bone cartilage or what some doctors will sometimes refer to as “bone waiting to happen.” So Little League pitchers have soft bones that are much more delicate and prone to injury.
This soft cartilage (also referred to as growth plates) are of course much weaker than a fully grown pitcher’s bone.
With pitching and improper mechanics the forces at the elbow are very high. So after throwing pitch after pitch with poor mechanics the stresses increase to the point where growth plates can separate.
Most of the stresses with be to the inside or sometimes to the underside or back of the elbow. This can show up as numbness and tingling in the pinky finger.
Of course not all pain ends up as surgery however, the pain or constant soreness after is a signal from the body that something is wrong.
Poor Mechanics Is Usually The Problem
More than likely it is the pitchers mechanics or a lack of good pitching instruction. So obviously the solution is to rest, institute a pre-pitching fully body and arm warm-up routine and to find the mechanical faults that are causing the arm pain.
Many parents have been led to believe that arm exercises are the solution. But normally that will not solve the long term problem of poor mechanics.
Remember a doctor or sports medicine specialist can tell you there is a problem and that the problem may be his throwing mechanics but they cannot tell you exactly how to identify the mechanical problem or which mechanical adjustment will reduce stress to the arm.
Only an expert who has the knowledge of filming the pitchers can find out why the arm is taking on too much stress. Normally it is because the pitcher is not using his body to develop force so the arm has to do more work.
The solution is for parents to take responsiblity for their son’s pitching and to learn about proper pitching mechanics or to get a video analysis done and start working on improving pitching mechanics so that those Little League pitchers don’t end up as high school pitchers who have surgery.
From an article that appeared in Arizona Republic, Scottsdale Edition, Sports Recreation Jan. 29, 2010 by Dr. Craig WeinStein