Common Elbow Injuries In Young Athletes

A young baseball player, suffering from Little Leaguer's Elbow

While the socialization and fitness found through joining a sports team provides innumerable benefits for children and young adults, most activities come with a heightened risk of accidental injury. Elbow injuries are particularly common in kids and young adults who play sports, whether from day-to-day overuse or an acute incident, like falling. Because children often focus on a single sport, year round, they constantly use the same muscles, tendons, and ligaments, placing relentless stress on still-developing growth plates. Before your child starts their very first or last sports season this fall, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the warning signs of these common elbow injuries.

“Little Leaguer’s Elbow” (Medial Apophysitis)

Youth (11 to 15 year old) baseball or softball pitchers and throwers are very susceptible to this chronic overuse injury, caused by throwing a ball too hard or too often. This injury occurs when the soft growth plate of the inside arm/elbow is continually stretched and overexerted, beginning with soreness and worsening into swelling, stiffness, loss of motion, loss of strength, and pain. While the injury tends to heal naturally through rest and physical therapy, untreated cases can result in a complete tear of the growth plate, which requires surgery to repair.

It is actually recommended by the American Sports Medicine Institute that adolescent pitchers are limited to two appearances per week. Check out my blog to see the other recommendations for youth baseball players.

Tennis Elbow

Tennis elbow is a common overuse injury, caused by irritation to the bony part of the outer elbow. It is characterized by pain with any activity associated with wrist extension, such as shaking someone’s hand or picking up a cup of coffee. This injury is most common in beginner tennis and racquet-sport players who use the wrong-sized racquet or have poor technique. This injury can usually be fixed by rest and wearing a band.

Elbow Fractures

Elbow fractures are quite common, making up about 10% of all fractures found in children. Fractures are usually caused by acute injury, like falling, and result in swelling, sharp pain, discoloration, inability to move the elbow, bruising, and a visibly crooked or deformed appearance. It’s recommended that you see an orthopedic physician immediately if your child shows these symptoms.

Preventing Sports Injuries

  • Overtraining is a major risk-factor for chronic injury. Adequate rest days, every week, are vital.
  • Proper form is key. Make sure your child has a good coach or professional observing the way they hit, pitch, or throw, so that they don’t further irritate the elbow.
  • Cross-training and strength training can help strengthen the muscles in the arm, shoulder, and wrist, improving the elbow’s wherewithal.
  • Good nutrition and hydration is essential. Kids are far more likely to get injured if they aren’t healthy.
  • Be engaged. When a single coach is handling 30+ kids, it’s impossible for them to monitor everyone. Regularly check-in with your child regarding how they feel and the types of activities they are performing at practice.

If you or someone you love has suffered a sports injury in the Louisville, Kentucky-area, board certified sports medicine physician Dr. Stacie Grossfeld at Orthopaedic Specialists PLLC can help. Orthopaedic Specialists PLLC is accepting new patients, and same day appointments are available. For additional information or to schedule an appointment, please contact Orthopaedic Specialists PLLC today at 502-212-2663.