Sports Medicine

How to Prevent Little League Elbow

By on 03/31/2017

Little league elbow is an overuse injury most frequently found in baseball players and other young athletes who participate in throwing sports. It typically affects athletes between the ages of 9 and 14 who are still growing.

Little league elbow refers to elbow pain associated with repetitive throwing. It can be caused by many issues ranging from strains to tendinitis to ligament damage to bone injury.

The most common symptom is pain on the inside of the elbow. Other symptoms include a limited range of motion and locking of the elbow joint. If a child experiences any of these symptoms, he or she should stop throwing to rest the joint.

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 each week during practice and competitive play.

  • 75 pitches for 8- to 10-year-olds.
  • 100 pitches for 11- to 12-year-olds.
  • 125 pitches for 13- to 14-year-olds.

In addition, young pitchers should play only three to four innings each game.

It’s important for parents and coaches to carefully monitor throwing athletes. Rest and proper training usually take care of most elbow pain, but not always.

During the off-season, young baseball players should rest at least eight to 12 weeks to prevent overuse injuries. In addition, strength deficits in a player’s core, shoulder and rotator cuff can contribute to overuse injuries. Athletes should concentrate on building core strength as well as their shoulder and rotator cuff muscles to prevent injury.

How to Treat Little League Elbow

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.

According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, most cases of little league elbow can be treated without surgery. Try the following strategies to ease the pain and address any remaining issues.

Rest the elbow. It’s important that young athletes stop throwing for a period of time to avoid complications and to be able to continue participating in sports.

Apply ice. Reduce swelling with an ice pack.

Don’t ignore recurring pain. If pain continues after a few days of rest or starts again after the child resumes throwing, further treatment may be needed.

Examine mechanics. Talk to your child’s coach about his or her throwing technique and make adjustments if necessary.

If the pain persists, call your physician.

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Review Date: March 09, 2016
Reviewed By: Andrew Overman, PT, DPT, MS, COMT, CSCS
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