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Protecting Young Pitchers

Protecting Young Pitchers:

When baseball season is in full swing, I see young baseball players in my office more and more with shoulder and elbow pain from baseball. I believe we can do a better job protecting our young pitchers, namely because the majority of these kids are being injured on the mound. They are throwing the wrong pitches or too many pitches too early. They often come to me with complaints of shoulder or elbow pain, swelling, decreased throwing velocity or decreased throwing accuracy.

The bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments of adolescents are not fully developed. This means there are weak areas that are susceptible to overuse and injury. We are seeing an increase in the amount of worn ulnar collateral ligaments in the elbow. This often requires surgery at a young age. This procedure is called the “Tommy John procedure” after the famous Dodgers pitcher.

The orthopedic community and the sports medicine physicians at Beacon Orthopedics have updated several new guidelines for protecting young pitchers. These guidelines are now implemented in many youth baseball leagues to help protect these young throwers. If guidelines are followed by the leagues and the coaches of our youth, many of the overuse injuries that we currently see may be avoided. The best treatment for a young pitchers sore elbow or shoulder is rest. If the pain does not go away or there is recurrent pain with throwing, the pitcher needs to be evaluated by a sports medicine orthopedic surgeon. X-rays will be needed to evaluate possible growth plate injuries and a thorough physical exam to evaluate ligament or tendon injuries will be required. Young pitchers should be instructed never to pitch through the pain and should be encouraged to communicate with their coach about soreness or fatigue of their throwing arm. We at Beacon believe in education of the patient, the parents and the coaches to help prevent injuries.

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