We are on the cusp of Major League Baseball’s Opening Day and with Spring Training ramping up, players are starting to increase their pitch counts in order to get ready for the upcoming season. In the past two weeks we have already seen multiple elbow injuries around the league. About a fourth of current Major League Baseball pitchers have had elbow surgery performed to repair a damaged Ulnar Collateral Ligament. This raises the questions: why are elbow injuries becoming so common and how do I prevent it from happening to my kids when they play sports? Pitching causes the elbow to accelerate at over 3000 degrees per second. With pitchers putting this amount of stress on their arms, it causes injuries.
A huge problem we are coming across in our patients has been young athletes trying to throw breaking balls before their bodies are ready for it. Children should not be throwing curveballs before age 14. Breaking balls should not be thrown until it is clear that the growth plate of the elbow is strong enough to handle the torsional force that is placed on the shoulder and elbow when performing these pitches. The other big issue we have come across in our clinics has been overuse injuries. In the past decade the amount of kids suffering elbow injuries has increased dramatically due to overuse. Kids are now participating in weekend tournaments consistently and pitching multiple days in a row in order to win games, when really they should be resting and icing their arms. We recommend that pitchers that throw more than 70 pitches shouldn’t pitch again until after they have had at least 5 days of rest. The best ways to prevent elbow injuries from occurring are proper pitching mechanics, giving your body the rest it needs, and performing the proper stretches before throwing activities.
Although it may seem like your sports career is over after having to get Tommy John surgery, this is not always the case. There have been multiple professional players who have come back from the surgery and have found success like Tim Hudson, Jamie Moyer, and Jameson Taillon. In separate interviews they all explained that not rushing back too fast from injury and rehabbing at the right pace according to their physical therapists, are what helped them make it back to the big leagues and experience success.
In conclusion, elbow injuries are common in overhead athletes. Overhead athletes that are experiencing pain in their elbows should go see a doctor and get the injury checked out. These injuries deserve attention sooner rather than later to prevent their problem from getting worse and negatively impacting their lives in the future.
Here at the Orthopedic Institute of Pennsylvania we have seven superb Orthopedic Surgeons that deal with elbow injuries: Dr. Curtis Goltz, Dr. Stephen Dailey, Dr. Ronald Lippe, Dr. James Oliverio, Dr. Michael Oplinger, and Dr. William Polacheck. Our philosophy of care for all diagnoses related to hands, wrists and elbows is to offer conservative treatment options utilizing advanced equipment and techniques. Surgery is typically a last resort. Each case is considered individually, and we don’t implement “cookie cutter” approaches to healthcare at OIP. You’ll have peace of mind, knowing that all members of the team are working for you personally.