Little League elbow is pain in the elbow joint due to repetitive throwing. This injury occurs in young baseball pitchers before puberty.
The Elbow Joint
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During this injury, the ligament attached to the inner side of the elbow begins to pull one of the growth plates away from the rest of the bone. Since the bones are still growing, the growth plates are weak and susceptible to injury. Certain types of throwing may lead to this condition, such as:
Throwing too hard and too oftenIncreasing the number of pitches per week too quicklyThrowing too many curves or sliders at a young ageChanging to a league where the pitcher's mound is farther away from home plate or the mound is elevated
These factors increase your chance of developing Little League elbow. Tell your doctor if you or your child has any of these risk factors:
Age: 10-15 years oldSex: male (more boys than girls are baseball pitchers)Baseball pitching, especially throwing curve balls or sliders
Pain around the bony knob on the inner side of the elbowSwelling (possibly)Pain when throwing overhandPain with gripping or carrying heavy objects (sometimes)
The doctor will ask about:
SymptomsHow the injury occurredWhen the pain beganAny prior elbow injuries
The doctor will also:
Examine the elbow for signs of ligament or bone damageFind the source of the pain
If needed, have an
done to look for damage to the bone
Treatment and recovery depend on the severity of the injury. Recovery time ranges from 6 weeks to 3 months.
Rest—Do not pitch or do activities that cause elbow pain. Do not play sports until the pain is gone.Cold—Apply ice or a cold pack to the outside of the elbow. Do this for 15-20 minutes, four times a day, for several days. Wrap the ice or cold pack in a towel. Do not apply ice directly to your skin.
Medication—Ask your doctor about
because they can mask symptoms. If you or your child has elbow pain, be sure to call the doctor.
Physical therapy—After the pain is gone, ask your doctor about
Gradual return to pitching—Begin throwing motions. Gradually progress to pitching as recommended by your doctor. Your coach should also know about your treatment.Surgery—This may be needed to reattach the ligament and bony fragment. This is rarely needed.
To reduce your chance of getting Little League elbow, take the following steps:
Warm up before pitching with light
(such as, jogging).
Stretch your muscles slowly and gently before pitching.Follow the pitching rules of your baseball league. Do not play in two leagues at the same time.Keep track of your child’s pitch count and the number of innings pitched. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting pitches to 200 per week or 90 per game.Learn and practice good pitching techniques.Do not throw curve balls and sliders until high school. This is when the growth plate in your elbow is fused with the bone.
Little league baseball and the pitch count. The National Athletic Trainers' Association website. Available at:
Accessed July 22, 2008.
Don’t let injuries keep your child in the dugout. Orthopaedic surgeons provide tips to prevent youth baseball and softball injuries.
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at:
Published April 2006. Accessed July 22, 2008.
Last reviewed September 2012 by John C. Keel, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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