Many sports and related activities can cause different kinds of elbow injuries and pain. It has been best studied in sports like baseball or softball where an athlete tends to run, jump, swing a bat, throw and catch a ball.
For example, overhead throwing puts a lot of stress or load on the elbow where the person may experience elbow pain. Such sports are highly stressful activities with motions repeated that lead to injuries. An athlete may be just throwing when all of a sudden, he developed some pain and will progress if left untreated.
Elbow pain and injuries are oftentimes caused by vigorous exercise or repeated stress at the elbow that results in sprains. It may be stretched and pulled, partially or completely torn off the tendons and ligaments of the inside elbow. You'll also hear popping noises as one of the symptoms of elbow pain. It'll cause sharp and nagging soreness and limit one's range of motion.
It's a common condition among youth baseball pitchers and throwers. Elbow pain and injury among overhead throwing athletes include both acute traumatic and chronic overuse injuries.
The growing plate (also known as the epiphyseal plate or physis) in children is considered the weakest area of the child's growing skeleton, thus, it's more vulnerable to injuries and if overused, gets inflamed and irritated which causes pain. Teen players are likely to experience these injuries because of their growing plate along with other elbow structures which are not yet fully developed.
• Tennis elbow or Lateral Epicondylitis > is an uncommon cause of posterior elbow and forearm area pain. It is typically an injury that's developed over time rather than felt with one particular event or throws. It will result in pain that worsens while the elbow is at loss of velocity and balance. An athlete may hear or feel locking, stiffness and clicking during an activity or a throw.
• The Pitcher's elbow or Medial Epicondyle Apophysitis injuries > In young athletes, this spot is more painful on the inner inside of the elbow, better known as “Little League Elbow." It is one of the most common injuries affecting kids and adolescent thrower athletes due to their growing plate or epiphyseal plate are in process of developing. It causes pain and swelling inside of the elbow and can limit throwers' movements and range of motion, thus, prevent and limit the ability to throw a ball.
• The (UCL) sprain > The ulnar collateral ligament is located on the inside of the elbow joint that provides stability for the throwing athletes arms. Just like the other injuries, this is also due to the excessive use of muscles. This injury may occur during fall and pitch which causes pain. Its symptoms include loss of control during a pitch, pain in the inner elbow and joint instability.
• Elbow Bursitis > It occurs in the Olecranon Bursa which is located at the boney tip of the elbow (called Olecranon). It is a thin, fluid-filled sac that contains a small amount of lubricating fluid, that allows the soft tissues to move freely over the underlying bone. This inflammation of the joint sac most often occurs after a fall. It will cause tenderness, redness, or warmth in the elbow area if the bursa became infected. The swelling could go worse and may look like a soft golf ball at the tip of the elbow.
• Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD) > This is a condition that develops in the joints most often in children and adolescent throwers when a small segment of bone began to separate from its surrounding bone region and cartilage. It has a greater chance of detaching and floating inside the joint in which surgery might be necessary.
(May include but not limited to)
While young baseball pitchers and throwers are particularly at risk for overuse and repetitive injuries of the elbow or in other cases, trauma to the arm, there are also some risk factors that can increase developing pitcher's elbow including:
• Age > Younger players (under 17 years old). More mature athletes can have a reduced ability to recuperate after an activity compared to younger ones.
• Poor physical conditioning > Physical conditioning routines can either be bad or good. Too much conditioning the wrong way will put young athletes in serious potential injuries. Go too easy, lest they won't be able to stand up with the sports' physical demand. Getting the right physical conditioning routine will help prevent elbow pain.
• Lack of rest between games.
• Year round participation in overhead throwing sports.
• Improper throwing mechanics > Proper pitching techniques should also be taught to young players to help prevent any related injuries.
• Players who played several positions in the same season, such as pitcher and catcher.
• Curveballs and breaking pitches > Both of this should be limited as studies show that these put more stress on the growth plate than other pitches.
Recommended Preventive and Safety Measures:
"Prevention is better than cure." Cliché as it may sound, prevention certainly is the absolute key treatment in protecting the throwers from pain and elbow injuries, especially kids and adolescent. The following safety measures involving the team's physician, coach, athletic trainer, official, parents of the younger athlete ensuring this are being strictly implemented for the safety of the athlete.
• Warm up thoroughly prior to play
• Ensure that the fields are free from debris before playing
• Stay hydrated
• Get adequate rest
• Have first aid kit on hand
• Adherence to pitch counts guidelines
• Avoid overuse and pitching while fatigued
• Learn good throwing mechanics as early as possible. The first steps are (1) basic throwing, (2) fastball pitching, (3) changeup pitching.
• Should stay in the one, same position. The pitcher-catcher combination may increase the risk of injuries.
• Discontinue pitching if a pain in the elbow, forearm, and shoulder area is felt until evaluated by the sports physician.
Treatment for Elbow Injuries:
There is always a time where injuries can’t be prevented. When this happens, it is always good to know about treatments that help ease the pain. They can either be through surgical or non-surgical treatment.
• Rest and avoid vigorous activities for the meantime - it may take several weeks of resting to feel a decrease in pain or even longer until it is completely gone.
• Anti-inflammatory medication - over the counter drugs can help relieve the pain and inflammation such as ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen.
• Physical therapy - Specific exercises to improve the range of motions in the affected area (either physical, occupational, or hand therapy) to help you manage your condition.
• Icing the elbow - this is to reduce swelling and pain. Expert recommended applying cold therapy for 20 to 30 minutes every 3 to 4 hours until pain is no longer felt.
• Use elbow strap - your health care provider may also recommend elbow brace protects the injury from further strain.
• Always seek immediate medical attention if the condition does not show improvements