The days get longer and warmer, the fields get covered in a new carpet of fresh grass, and soon the baseballs and mitts come out for a new season of Little League (or grown-up league) fun.
The Stop Sports Injuries website reminds us that baseball in particular can exact a toll on shoulders and elbows:
“Injuries in young athletes are on the rise, but elbow and shoulder injuries in children are on the verge of becoming an epidemic. Thousands of children are seen each year complaining of elbow or shoulder pain. Damage or tear to the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) is the most common injury suffered and is often caused by pitchers throwing too much. This ligament is the main stabilizer of the elbow for the motions of pitching. When it becomes damaged, it can be difficult to repair and rehabilitate.”
Overuse is the name of the game here, but there are steps parents and coaches can take to help prevent overuse injuries:
- Warm up properly by stretching, running, and easy, gradual throwing
- Rotate playing other positions besides pitcher
- Concentrate on age-appropriate pitching
- Adhere to pitch count guidelines, such as those established by Little League Baseball
- Avoid pitching on multiple teams with overlapping seasons
- Don't pitch with elbow or shoulder pain, if the pain persists, see a doctor
- Don't pitch on consecutive days
- Don't play year-round
- Never use a radar gun
- Communicate regularly about how your arm is feeling and if there is pain
- Develop skills that are age appropriate
- Emphasize control, accuracy, and good mechanics
- Master the fastball first and the change-up second, before considering breaking pitches
- Speak with a sports medicine professional or athletic trainer if you have any concerns about baseball injuries or baseball injury prevention strategies
The Orthopedic & Sports Medicine Associates at Sturdy Memorial Hospital put together some “Little League Injury Prevention” tips that suggests what types of pitches and makes recommendations on how many should be thrown a week. You can download the PDF here.
When an injury occurs
Bones, muscles, and joints give the body shape, allow movement, and protect vital internal organs. Long bones form the upper and lower parts of each limb. Muscles, ligaments, and tendons attach to the bones, allowing for movement where the bones come together at joints. These bones are the most exposed to external forces and injury.
There are four different types of injuries affecting bones, muscles, and joints. Strains are stretching or tearing injuries to muscles or tendons. Sprains are tearing injuries to ligaments that hold joints together. Dislocations are the separation of bone ends at a joint. Fractures are breaks in bones.
Distinguishing an injury to muscle or bone is often difficult. It is best to treat them all as possible fractures. Common signs of these injuries include swelling, pain, and discoloration. The limb may appear deformed and the person may be guarding it by holding it against his or her body.
Unstable bones or joints can damage tissue, muscle, blood vessels, and nerves when moved.
The immediate treatment is to minimize movement and prevent additional injury. Splinting an injured limb can reduce pain and prevent further injury. In general, it is best to rely on EMS personnel to splint, as they have more extensive training, experience, and equipment.
For many injuries, local cooling can help decrease bleeding, swelling, and pain. A plastic bag filled with a mixture of ice and water works best. Place a thin cloth between the bag and skin to prevent cold-related problems. Limit application to 20 minutes or less.
Soft tissue injury to the muscles, tendons, and ligaments can be become swollen and painful. These types of injuries can be difficult to distinguish from more serious injuries such as fractures or dislocations. Local cooling can help reduce swelling and pain.
To learn more about treating limb injuries, as well as other first aid techniques, take a class today!