Once spring season starts, there is an increase in the cases of elbow issues among young children who play baseball. The usual elbow issues among children include medial apophysitis which is commonly called as Little Leaguer’s elbow.
It is important to note that Little Leaguer’s elbow as well as osteochondritis dissecans can affect baseball pitchers and other players who engage in sports that involve repetitive throwing.
What is Little Leaguer’s elbow?
When it comes to Little Leaguer’s elbow or medial apophysitis, it occurs due to repetitive throwing which can produce a strong pull on the ligaments and tendons of the elbow. The child will feel pain at the bump on the interior of the elbow. This can be serious if it is aggravated. Constant pulling can tear the tendons and ligaments away from the bone. The tearing can pull the tiny bone fragments with it which results to the disruption of the normal bone growth, thus resulting to deformity.
What is osteochondritis dissecans?
Osteochondritis dissecans is caused by monotonous throwing and can be a source of pain on the exterior part of the elbow. It is important to note that the muscles function in pairs. If there is lugging on one side of the elbow, there is also pressing on the other side. Once the elbow is flattened, the joint will smash the immature bones, thus resulting to the loosening or fragmenting of the cartilage and bone.
What are the symptoms?
Little Leaguer’s elbow can cause pain on the interior of the elbow. The child must stop throwing if the following symptoms are present:
- Limited range of motion
- Elbow pain
- Locking of the elbow joint
If these conditions are left untreated, they can become complicated conditions that can affect the activity level of the individual.
Young children usually respond well to non-surgical treatment options which include the following:
- The child must be allowed to rest since continuous throwing can lead to major complications and threaten the ability of the child to stay active in any sport that involves throwing.
- Apply an ice pack on the affected area to reduce the swelling.
- In case pain continues after a few days of resting the affected region or if pain repeats when throwing is continued, the child should stop any activity until treated.
- Try to refine or improve the throwing technique of the child.
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Surgery is usually needed, especially girls older than 12 years old as well as boys older than 14 years old. Depending on the injury of the child, surgery might involve the removal of slack bone fragments, bone graft or reattachment of a ligament back to the bone.
The general measure to observe on how many times a child can safely throw every week is 75 for 8-10 years old while 100 for 11-12 years old and 125 for 13-14 year olds. This must be observed in both practices as well as competitive play. The best way to prevent throwing injuries of the elbow is to play only 3-4 innings every game.