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Play Ball! How to Prevent Little League Elbow

my son playing baseball at risk for little league elbow

Parenting sometimes feels like a baseball game, an endless one you'll never exactly win. You're trying to help your kid knock it out of the park — life, that is. You dress the kid in every pad you find to prevent injuries. You're making calls, and they could be wrong. You sign them up to play baseball, because you think it's safer than football or soccer. Then you learn you've set your kid up for overuse injuries like Little League elbow. See? You can't win.

At least, that's how I felt when my son wanted to play football. We signed him up for baseball instead. When he started pitching, and he was good at it, we felt justified in overriding his desires. Then a ball smashed his nose. Growing pains kicked in.

Every parent knows you can't keep your kids injury-free. Luckily, with Little League elbow, strategic planning can prevent it.

What is Little League Elbow?

With baseball, you have to watch for overuse injuries that damage your kid's growth plates. Those are the part of the bones that help your child grow. My son definitely wanted to grow. Kids who play ball all year round risk this kind of irreversible harm.

Repetitive throwing causes Little League elbow. This can include strains, ligament damage, or bone injury. It can happen to any young athlete between the ages of 9 and 14 who plays a sport with a lot of throwing.

Little League elbow can become serious if left untreated. Repeated pulling can tear ligaments and tendons away from the bone and cause small bone fragments to pull away, too. This can interfere with bone growth and deform the bone.

Does My Kid Have an Elbow Injury?

The most common signs to watch for in your child:

If your child or teen experiences any of these symptoms, they need to stop throwing to rest their elbow right away. Carefully monitor your throwing athlete. Rest and proper training usually takes care of most elbow pain, but not always.

How to Prevent Little League Elbow

The best way to prevent Little League elbow during in-season play is to limit the number of pitches young athletes throw. Limit your child's weekly number of pitches during practice and competitive play. Follow these guidelines:

In addition, young pitchers should play only 3 to 4 innings each game.

Rest is Best

During the off-season, young baseball players should rest at least 8 to 12 weeks to prevent overuse injuries. In addition, weakness in a player’s core, shoulder, and rotator cuff can contribute to overuse injuries. Get your kid into cross training exercises, like swimming. Encourage your child to build core strength to help prevent injury.

Does Your Kid Have Little League Elbow Pain?

Our pediatric orthopedics services are nationally ranked by U.S. News & World Report. 

How to Treat Little League Elbow

Most cases of Little League elbow can be treated without surgery. Try these strategies to ease pain and address other issues.

Don’t ignore recurring pain. Watch for pain that continues after a few days of rest or starts again after the child resumes throwing. Your kid might need further treatment. That could include surgery to take away loose bone fragments or reattach a ligament to the bone. 

Lucky for those of us who live in central Virginia, UVA Children's has orthopedic experts who specialize in children who play sports. They have sophisticated technologies and skills to help you make sure your child stays in the game.

If the pain persists, call your doctor.

Copyright 2020 © Baldwin Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved.

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