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When Baseball Hurts Your Child
Medically Reviewed by Pat Denton, M.D. Pee Dee Orthopaedic Associates
While parents and grandparents might be struggling with the signs of aging (bad knee and hip joints, painful shoulders) orthopedic youth injuries are increasing at an alarming rate, especially in baseball. One researcher estimated that serious throwing injuries are occurring 16 times more often than just 30 years ago – even though orthopedic surgeon organizations have issued guidelines. According to the STOP Sports Injuries campaign, 20% of youth ages 8-12 and 45% of youth aged 13-14 will have arm pain during baseball season.
Those pains are warning signs of problems that could lead to loss of motion and strength. Untreated, there may be permanent damage to growth centers of the shoulder and elbow.
The repetitive motion of young pitchers’ arms put their limbs at risk. Most common injuries include:
- Elbow stress fractures, when fatigued muscles transfer stress to the bone, causing a tiny crack.
- Neuritis, caused by repeated stretching of the nerve running through the elbow. Pain resembles electric shocks, along with numbness, tingling or pain in the fingers.
Other common baseball injuries include muscle pulls, ligament injures, cuts and bruises. Although baseball is officially a “non-contact” sport, many youth injuries are due to contact with a ball, a bat or another player.
- For pitchers:
- Limit the amount of pitches per game: 75 pitches for ages 11-12; 90 pitches for ages 15-16; 105 pitches for 17 & 18 year olds.
- One game per week for younger than 15.
- Only throw fastball (no breaking balls) until 14 (curveball), 15 (knuckleball), 16 (slider, forkball, splitter) and 17 (Screwball).
- All players:
- Do not slide under age 10.
- Do not play one sport year round. Take one season off.
- Do not play on more than 1 team at a time or pitch more than 1 game a day.
- One complaint of arm soreness or tiredness should result in one week off.
“In most cases, we would suggest rest, physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medication,” says McLeod Sports Medicine Medical Director Dr. Pat Denton of Pee Dee Orthopaedic Associates. “If these treatments don’t help, we would move to several possible surgical solutions, including 1) minimally invasive Arthroscopy to look at and repair a problem or remove bone chips, or 2) Tommy John Surgery, which involves rebuilding a torn ligament or nerve repositioning to prevent stretching or snapping.”
RETURNING TO THE FIELD
Young athletes can return to the field in 6 to 9 WEEKS after successful non-surgical treatment. If surgery is required, the path back to the field may take 6 to 9 MONTHS.
- Shoulder or Elbow Overuse Injury: Gradually increase the balls thrown.
- Joint Problem: Do NOT return to play until there is NO pain or swelling and the player has normal strength and a return to full range of motion.
- Concussion: Player should be cleared by a physician.
Do not ignore pain in young athletes. It could develop into serious or lifelong limitations. Talk with an orthopedic specialist to determine the problem and possible treatments.
To increase safety and improve throwing technique, check with McLeod Sports Medicine.
To find a physician, click here.
Sources include: McLeod Health, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, American Sports Medicine Institute, Beaumont Health System, American Journal of Sports Medicine, Journal of Applied Biomechanics