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Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Offers Safety Tips for Little League Season
With baseball season upon us, little league season is in full-swing at the ball parks. Since this type of sport requires repetitive throwing motions by all positions, it can often put strain on the elbow. A common injury in young athletes during this season is Little League Elbow, which is an injury to the growth plate.

The growth plate in the elbow is vulnerable to injury because it is made up of growth cartilage, a relatively soft substance that is not as strong as bone, muscle or tendons. If recognized early and treated properly, Little League Elbow usually heals completely with no long-term effects to the growth plate. David Marshall, M.D., medical director of the Sports Medicine Program at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, one of the eight largest pediatric sports medicine facilities in the country, offers these tips to parents who want to safeguard their children from potential baseball injuries this spring. There is no way to guarantee that a young thrower will not develop Little League Elbow, but there are some measures that can be taken to minimize the risk such as:
  • Always warm up before throwing.

  • Have a coach or parent count pitches.

  • Remember to count hard throws when not pitching (playing infield, throwing at home, pitching lessons, PE class, etc).

  • The recommendations for the number of pitches that one should throw in one game to prevent injuries is different for each age group:

    8 – 10 years old50 – 60 pitches
    11 – 12 years old    65 – 70 pitches
    12 – 14 years old70 – 80 pitches
    14+ years old80 – 85 pitches

  • Remember, these are only recommendations. Young athletes should stop throwing if they start feeling elbow pain or think they have Little League Elbow.

  • No curve balls or other breaking pitches until age 14 because young pitchers’ hands are too small for proper finger placement.

  • The most common symptom of Little League elbow is pain at the inner elbow that worsens with throwing. It may be severe and occur abruptly after one hard throw, or it may occur gradually over the course of a season. There also may be swelling, redness, and warmth over the inner elbow.

  • If the elbow feels sore, ice should be applied for 15 to 20 minutes, and it can be wrapped with an ace bandage or a compression sleeve. Athletes also should see their doctor, since x-rays may be needed to determine the extent of the injury to the growth plate.

  • To allow proper healing, the period of non-throwing may take four to six weeks.

  • Once healing is complete, there will be a gradual return to throwing, usually over a two to three week period. This is best accomplished under the direction of a pediatric sports medicine physical therapist.
For more information on preventing and treating Little League injuries, call Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at 404-250-KIDS or visit www.choa.org/sportsmed.

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