Throwing injuries in young athletes
All athletes can get injuries from throwing too much. But unlike professional baseball players, young athletes still are growing. Overuse injuries can affect their bones, as well as muscles, tendons and ligaments. Shoulders and elbows are most commonly injured. Fortunately, many throwing injuries can be prevented.
Before playing, young athletes always should do a full-body warm-up, followed by stretching, and slow and steady throwing. Follow these tips:
- Start by learning proper throwing skills.
- Focus on control and accuracy instead of speed.
- Follow pitch count, pitch-type and rest guidelines.
- Learn fastball and change-up pitching styles first.
- Rotate to other positions on the team, but never directly between pitcher and catcher.
- Avoid pitching on multiple teams with overlapping seasons.
- Never measure your throwing speed against a radar gun.
- Don't pitch if your elbow or shoulder hurts, or if your arm is tired. Talk with your coach about how your arm feels.
Young athletes should have at least a few months off from throwing during the year. Sports that involve throwing or the same type of motion, like volleyball, tennis and swimming, also can stress shoulders and elbows.
A pediatric sports medicine specialist should evaluate a young athlete's injury. Signs of injury include:
- Severe or continued pain.
- Decreased arm function.
- Poor performance, like decreasing accuracy or throwing speed.
Specialists generally will request X-rays of the shoulder or elbow and examine the injured area before recommending treatment. Sometimes advanced imaging, like an MRI, may be needed.
Most injuries do not need surgery and will improve with rest from throwing and physical therapy. Severe injuries may require surgery. Full recovery may take several weeks or months. A young athlete only should return to play when a health care provider has cleared him or her for participation.
Throwing injury video
Watch the following video featuring Shayne Fehr, MD, pediatric sports medicine specialist, and Brian Butler, DPT, ATC/L, physical therapist and athletic trainer, to learn more about throwing injuries:
If you think your young athlete has a throwing injury, contact us to make an appointment:
(414) 607-5280 or toll-free (877) 607-5280