Tips To Prevent Little Leaguer’s Elbow

Young baseball pitchers and other players who throw a high volume of balls are vulnerable to this painful overuse injury affecting the elbow joint. We have the tips you need to make sure your baseball athlete is playing safely.

Little Leaguer’s elbow occurs gradually when the elbow joint is stressed by repeated pitching or throwing. It is most common in young players between 8 and 15 years of age, but like any overuse injury, it can be prevented.

Overuse elbow damage is directly linked to number of pitches or throws a player makes in a game, the number of games he or she plays, and the number of practice throws made during and outside of training. Little Leaguer’s elbow is more common in baseball players who play all year and for more than one team.

Monitoring the number of pitches or throws a child makes—and the time frame within which they are made—is the most straightforward way to protect your child from this injury. Young pitchers should not play more than three or four innings in a game. In addition, these are the age-based guidelines for the number of throws a child can safely make:

  • Children age 8 to 10: 75 pitches or throws per week
  • Children age 11 to 12: 100 pitches or throws per week
  • Children age 13 to 14: 125 pitches or throws per week

The type of pitch a child throws can also increase the risk of Little Leaguer’s elbow. Breaking pitches—like curveballs and sliders—cause the most stress to the elbow. Medical recommendations suggest that pitchers should not throw curveballs until they are 14 years old, and should not throw sliders until they are 16.

In addition to specific throw counts and age restrictions, you can use these general guidelines to further reduce overuse injury risks:

  • Maintain comprehensive fitness. Resistance training, aerobic conditioning, and strength training should be part of your child’s fitness routine.
  • Take a break from baseball. Young baseball players need a period of “active rest” from throwing. Instead of playing baseball year-round, your child should devote at least three to six months to a “non-throwing” sport to give his or her body time to recover.

Following these guidelines can help to ensure that your young baseball star will spend the summer playing ball and not sitting out the game on the sidelines.

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