Pitcher’s Elbow in the Youth Population

Pitcher’s elbow, otherwise known as medial apophysitis is a condition that occurs due to irritation or injury on the inner side (medial side) of the elbow. This condition is becoming more and more common in young athletes, especially baseball players, and can be caused by chronic overuse or lack of recovery between periods of activity. Some signs and symptoms that occur with this condition include:

  • worsening pain on the medial side of the elbow when throwing a ball
  • swelling and tenderness on the medial side of your elbow
  • inability to throw the ball at your normal speed
  • loss of grip strength, loss of accuracy
  • loss of distance when throwing
  • loss of range of motion in elbow joint
  • muscle cramping, discomfort with certain movements of forearm muscles

There are conservative treatment methods to care for pitcher’s elbow. Treatment methods (which can be completed at Physical Therapy!) should be focused on range of motion, strength training, manual therapy, pain management, functional training, and education. To decrease the risk of developing pitcher’s elbow, young athletes should have:

  • pitches per game limits
  • warm-up pitches
  • innings per game pitched limits
  • pitches per year limits

In a study conducted by Olsen et al., when comparing injured versus non-injured baseball pitchers in the same age group, injured players had a higher number of games played in a year, innings played in a game, and pitches thrown in a game.

As a parent or coach, monitoring pitch count can potentially lower the risk of occurrence of pitcher’s elbow in adolescent athletes. This is especially true for pitchers AND catchers. Parents and coaches should also encourage players to stay away from throwing breaking pitches like curveballs until certain ages. Strength and conditioning at practice (other than just throwing) is another option to reduce the risk of adolescent baseball players elbow injuries. Even having home exercise programs that focus on strengthening the muscles of the forearm and around the elbow. Exercises that would be good for this would be: prone and supinated wrist curls, grip-strengthening exercises, and forearm exercises with removable weights. All of these things can potentially keep a young athlete from developing pitcher’s elbow, and learned at Physical Therapy.

 

Olsen, S. J. (2006). Risk Factors for Shoulder and Elbow Injuries in Adolescent Baseball Pitchers. American Journal of Sports Medicine,34(6), 905-912. doi:10.1177/0363546505284188

 

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