In addition to the wonderful warm weather, springtime also brings with it the opening of one of our country’s oldest sports traditions and what many still consider to be America’s pastime: baseball season.
For the better part of the next few months, players of all levels from little league through the majors will keep the sport going strong and spend countless hours invested in practice to improve their respective teams’ performance. Unfortunately, this elevated level of dedication can lead to unfortunate outcomes, especially for young athletes whose bodies are still developing and more vulnerable.
In recent years, the level of competition has increased dramatically in little league, and injuries have become more prevalent than ever. The main issue is young baseball players, particularly pitchers, who throw too hard, too frequently or too early, without rest—and often all year round—which can lead to serious overuse injuries to the elbow or shoulder.
Damage or tear to the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in the elbow joint is one of the most common injuries that results from pitchers throwing too much, while labral tears, strains, sprains and both Little League Elbow and Shoulder are also seen regularly. As a result, elbow and shoulder injuries in young baseball players are close to becoming an epidemic if nothing is done to reverse this trend.
Fortunately overuse injuries, especially in the UCL and shoulder, can be prevented with certain precautions. Cleveland Physical Therapy Associates recommends parents and coaches follow these pointers to avoid overuse injuries this season:
- Encourage proper warming up with stretching, running and easy throwing
- Rotate playing other positions aside from pitching (especially for very young athletes) and don’t allow pitching on consecutive days
- Adhere to the guidelines for maximum pitch count, rest periods and other recommendations which can be found here
- Avoid pitching on multiple teams with overlapping seasons or pitching year-round; there should be ample time each year with no baseball
- Make sure young players are communicating clearly about any arm pain; if it does occur, don’t allow pitching through it, and if it persists see a doctor
- Emphasize control, accuracy and good mechanics
In the event of an injury, players should see a medical professional and only return to play gradually after resting for sufficient time once pain subsides. At Cleveland Physical Therapy Associates in Shelby and Kings Mountain, NC, we can treat overuse injuries like Little League Shoulder and also provide prevention programs for young athletes to help them avoid injuries in the first place. Call 704-471-0001 for more information or to schedule an appointment.