Saturday, April 7, 2012

Youth Baseball Injuries can be Prevented with Preparation

Common Injuries and Causes Related to Youth Baseball Injuries

Part I

The most common area of pain complaints in the young baseball player is the elbow. The shoulder is also a common site of injury. Several risk factors are associated with increased risk of injury in the youth baseball athlete:
  1. Age: the young athlete is susceptible to injury due to the development of the musculoskeletal  system. The growth plates located at the ends of upper arm, at the elbow and shoulder, are common sites of potential injury.
  2. Level of Competition: as the young athlete increases their level of play so does the demand on the maturing arm in the throwing athlete. Increased competition places demands due to frequency of throwing, throwing distances and intensity of play.
  3. Number of pitches in a season: as the level of play increases the repetition of throwing increases. The young pitcher places increased demands on the soft tissue of the elbow and shoulder if adequate rest intervals are not allowed to take place.
  4. Fatigue: inadequate rest causes fatigue, and if the body is not prepared with proper technique, physical preparation(strength and endurance), and control of pitches thrown, the shoulder and elbow are at greater risk of injury.
Breaking pitches(junk) and high pitch count are associated with elbow and shoulder pain in 9-14 year baseball players. While muscle soreness can be expected in throwing sports, joint pain should never be accepted as normal.

Elbow Anatomy

Most Common Injuries

Little League Elbow:

Avulsion of the ossification center of the medial(inside) elbow. Accompanied by pain, limited motion, swelling and possibly a popping sensation

Little League Shoulder:

Involves injury of the proximal(shoulder bone) humeral growth plate(epiphysis). Pain is experienced over the front and lateral aspect of the shoulder. The ability to move the arm may be limited, as well as strength.

Osteochondritis Dissecans:

Shoulder Anatomy
Compression lesion of the articular cartilage in the lateral(outside) elbow. There may be associated loss of extension(straightening) of the elbow. This may be more career threatening.

Rotator Cuff Strain:

Overuse of the stabilizing soft tissue at the shoulder(glenohumeral joint) is a common injury in overhead, throwing sports such as baseball. The muscle-tendon cuff attaches at the upper most end of the shoulder. The muscle can be injured as a result of repetitive strain. Pain and weakness is commonly present with throwing and lifting movements.

The initial management of shoulder or elbow pain includes rest and pain control. Decreasing pain is best managed with control of pain and inflammation. This includes rest and activity modification and application of cold packs 2-3 times per day to decrease inflammation.
If pain does not decrease, and range of motion of the shoulder and elbow remain painful and limited, it is recommended that a Medical Professional(Medical Doctor or Physical Therapist) evaluate the injury before return to play. Continued play with pain and weakness can lead to career threatening issues.

In Part II of the Youth Baseball Injuries can be Prevented with Preparation I will discuss specific exercises and drills that can be included as a strength and conditioning program for the youth baseball athlete.

See specifics related to long toss baseball throwing programs to increase arm strength, and understand the implications of starting a long toss throwing program.

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