“Over the top!”, “Don’t Aim!”, “Push off the rubber!” If these phrases are all too familiar to you while at a ball game, they could be causing more harm than good. Sports Medicine specialist, Raphael Longobardi, MD of the University Orthopaedic Center in Hackensack, NJ, is seeing more athletes, younger than ever before, coming in with overuse injuries, particularly Little League elbow "due to the pressures of pitching and the increase of organized sports beyond a regular season."
While there are many age guidelines to follow in regards to pitching and throwing, coaches and parents need to be aware of proper ways to prevent overuse injuries including, but not limited to, proper warm ups (stretching, running and easy, gradual throwing); a trained teacher or coach to help supervise a team; and for parents, a loss of enthusiasm by your child or continuous rubbing of the a sore area, could be warning signs of pain. Dr. Longobardi adds, “ ignoring these signs and symptoms can dramatically affect a child’s chances to continue playing baseball or softball. If an injury is overlooked today, it can result in future damage that could be more difficult to correct.
Little League Elbow is an injury to the growth plate inside the elbow joint, most commonly due to excessive throwing. The age group most affected is anywhere from ages 10-15, primarily ages 12-14. The combination of joint being immature, and the increased competition and intensity level at that age, definitely increases the chances of injury to the growth plate in the elbow, and sometimes causing it to separate. In some cases, if not detected early, can lead to surgery,” explains Dr. Longobardi. “ Although the symptoms gradually build up, the elbow eventually becomes sore to the touch. The most characteristic symptom is when the player experiences pain with throwing the ball, decreased velocity or distance, and sometimes diminished effectiveness. A clinical exam and an x-ray will confirm the diagnosis.”