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Little League Elbow | Tips for Faster Recovery & Injury Prevention

little league elbow

It’s the middle of the season and your son says that his elbow is feeling sore after throwing. Do you 1) tell him to play through it 2) tell him to keep an eye on it in case it gets worse or 3) advise that he take a break from pitching?

 It’s tough to know exactly what to do in this situation. A sore elbow could be due to heavy throwing or it could be caused by something more problematic like little league elbow. You don’t want to stall progress, but you also don’t want a more serious injury down the road. Luckily, there are a handful of ways to prevent overuse injuries so athletes can stay in the game.

What is Little League Elbow?

Little league elbow is an overuse injury that’s commonly seen in adolescent throwing athletes. It occurs with repetitive stress to the growth plate on the inside of the elbow. Ligaments and tendons start to pull away from the bone – often taking fragments of bone with it. When these bone fragments come loose, it can lead to deformity or other long-term disabilities like osteoarthritis. It’s important to catch little league elbow before it becomes a more serious injury.

Since the growth plates in young athletes are not fully developed, they’re more susceptible to injury. As athletes get older, their growth plates will harden, lessening the risk of injury to the bone.

little league elbow

Signs of little league elbow:

  • Pain on the inside of the elbow around the bony bump
  • Swelling
  • Difficulty straightening arm
  • Stiff elbow

What Causes Little League Elbow?

Little league elbow develops from two main causes: overuse and/or poor throwing technique.

High volume throwing with insufficient recovery time creates the perfect environment for overuse injuries. Pitching too much and too often overloads the elbow and eventually it breaks down. Using poor mechanics creates abnormal stresses to the body, making the problem worse. Little league elbow shouldn’t lead to something serious, but when left unaddressed it can lead to bigger complications. Having the right recovery protocols in place is valuable for athletes of all ages.

Research shows that youth baseball players who don’t take 3 months of rest during their offseason have a 62-90% greater risk of seriously injuring their arm. That doesn’t mean they can’t workout or play other sports during that time, but they should refrain from throwing motions for that period.

Who Does it Affect?

Typically, little league elbow affects high volume throwing athletes ages 8-15. The problem is most common for athletes who play year-round or pitch for multiple teams.

Little League Elbow Prevention

Did you know that 40% of adolescent pitchers experience elbow pain?

Little league elbow typically starts with fatigue and then progresses to pain. As with any issue, the quicker you can catch it, the better. More importantly, players should adopt injury prevention strategies into their everyday routine, so these types of injuries can be avoided at all costs.

  1. Variation: participate in a variety of sports and activities throughout the year. Using different muscle groups can help prevent overworking specific areas.
  2. Keep fit and conditioned: Even during off season, it’s important to keep up with some conditioning. You don’t want to go from nothing to maximum efforts once the season gets going again.
  3. Active recovery: performing active recovery throughout the year will help keep your body in top shape and free of overuse injuries. Recovery is critical for high volume athletes like baseball pitchers. Over 200 MLB pitchers use Marc Pro to recover from the stresses of the game.
  4. Proper mechanics: using the right mechanics can help keep your body healthy and engage and strengthen the correct muscles to perform the job. Poor mechanics can lead to a variety of injuries.
  5. Don’t push it: when in pain, take that as a cue to cut back. Pushing through pain can often lead to more significant injuries down the road.
  6. Refrain from ice & ibuprofen: at the first sign of pain, many people grab the ice and ibuprofen. However, both of these can make the situation worse. Ice and ibuprofen both delay the healing process. They can provide some quick pain relief, but keep in mind it isn’t helping your recovery and is likely going to make things worse.

Using Marc Pro for Arm Care

The following Marc Pro pad placements will help keep your arms healthy and prevent overuse injuries. You can use this placement (and others) while on the road or in the comfort of your own home. Marc Pro helps athletes recover faster and stay in the game.