Strength Performance Network

Each spring kids look forward to the start of Little League, Pony and the all year long travel baseball each year and with that being said, we see an increase in elbow problems in young baseball players. A common elbow problem in these children is “Little League Elbow”.

Annually, an estimated 4.8 million children aged 5-14 years participate in baseball and softball. The incidence of overuse injuries in the 9-12 year old range for baseball is 20-40% and in the adolescent age group is 30-50%.

Injury usually occurs due to repetitive throwing and more importantly, the use of curve balls or other breaking ball pitches that causes excessive rotation of the shoulder, elbow and wrist. And with the child not being fully developed, could eventually lead to stress placed on the elbow by pulling excessively on the tendons and ligaments and possible growth plate injuries.

I have a several theories on why these injuries are happening at such a young age. The first being poor coaching, not of the game itself, rather the teaching of poor throwing mechanics. Secondly, teaching or letting the kids throw breaking balls at an early age. Thirdly, allowing the pitch count to get too high and finally, coaches either doesn’t know the possible effects or they have a “win at all cost” mindset and just don’t care by enabling the kids to throw junk balls.

To help cut down on injuries during the season, it is always a good idea to have a good off season strength and conditioning program to help prepare for an upcoming season. Proper exercise is a great benefit to young athletes and non-athletes as well; it helps prepare them with the knowledge exercise and good eating habits that will last a lifetime.

Ok, Now that I got all the cutesy crap out the way, lets talk some commonsense. Why, oh why with as long as some of these coaches been coaches would they let a kid, let’s say 10, 11, 12 or even early teens allow a kid who hasn’t even hit puberty yet, is no where near fully developed, to throw junk balls and run up a pitch count during a game (not to mention throwing during practice time)? Is it not knowing, is it being naïve, is it knowing and just don’t give a s**t and just win at all costs? In my opinion it’s all of it and about as close to child abuse as one can get in my opinion. Coaches, parents and players need to be educated on how something like this could not only affect their kid’s performance now, but in the future as well in almost all sports they might decide to play later.

Just over the last 5 years I have had to help rehab 4 kids ranging from 17-19 years old that have had Tommy John surgery. If you don’t know exactly what Tommy John surgery is, let me help you out. Tommy John surgery is a reconstruction of the UCL (Ulnar Collateral Ligament ) in which a ligament in the medial elbow is replaced with a tendon from another part of the body, usually the forearm, knee or hamstring. It’s a long painful rehab process that can sometimes last up to a year. If a coach or parent cares at all about the health of a player, the last thing that kid should be doing is throwing junk from a pitching mound or be put in a situation that causes overuse.

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Comment by Michael Martin, MS, CSCS on March 30, 2012 at 5:40am

Joe,  I can't remember exactly where I read it, but I'll find it and get back to you.

Comment by Joe Marino on March 29, 2012 at 11:20pm

Michael, can you direct me to a link of the article? I would be interested in reading that. Thank you.

Comment by Michael Martin, MS, CSCS on March 29, 2012 at 3:17pm

some good points, however it's important to point out that a recent study by Dr. James Andrew's (a foremost expert on pitching injuries) actually did quite a bit to dispell the curveballs cause arm injuries myth.  their conclusion was that actual pitch count and volume over the course of a season and years (as you did mention) is a primary reason for arm injuries, not throwing curveballs. 

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