Youth sports are a great way to keep kids active, but excessive activity can actually be harmful on their body. One such area that endures a lot of stress during normal athletic activity is the elbow joint. Repetitive strain on the elbow can lead to inflammation, and throwing during athletic activity is one of the more common forces that contributes to this stress. In today’s blog, we take a closer look at how a physical therapist can help prevent and treat youth elbow injuries from excessive throwing.
What Is Thrower’s Elbow?
Throwing or swinging your arms is a common action used in a number of the most popular sports, like baseball, tennis, football and volleyball. These repetitive motions can be hard on the elbow and lead to an injury aptly named “thrower’s elbow.” It is kind of a catch-all condition that involves damage to the bones, tendons, muscles and ligaments around the elbow joint and forearm. More importantly, this damage can affect the growth plate in the area. The growth plate can become inflamed due to repetitive injury from muscle contracture and overuse, and left untreated, this can cause problems as the child continues to grow.
Symptoms of thrower’s elbow include:
- Arm weakness
- Pain on the inside of the elbow joint
- Swelling on the inside of the elbow
- Increase pain with arm use
- Limited range of motion
If the problem is ignored and stress is continued, small or large fractures may develop in the growth plate.
Risk Factors And Treatment
Since thrower’s elbow is a condition that can affect the growth plate, and these growth plates are only present in individuals who are still growing, thrower’s elbow tends to affect children between the ages of 10-17. Other more modifiable risk factors include playing in sports year round, overzealous weightlifting routines, poor athletic mechanics and simple overuse on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Most commonly, this is seen in boys, especially pitchers, who throw hundreds of pitches or more each summer during baseball season.
The good news is that mild cases or irritation and inflammation are unlikely to have long-term effects on the growth plate and can be rectified with simple solutions, like by giving your child’s arm plenty of time to rest between games or by improving their mechanics. Another way to help prevent stress from causing problems for your child’s elbow is by developing a strength training regimen that helps to prepare it for upcoming activity. As you might have guessed, strength training and biomechanical improvements are two things we specialise in at OrthoRehab Specialists. Not only can we help calm inflammation and prevent damage to the growth plate in your child’s elbow, but we can make the area more able to withstand stress and more biomechanically sound, which can help them during athletics.
Rest is a key component to treating thrower’s elbow, but it’s not the only way you should be treating the condition. You also need to be taking active steps to prevent the problem from recurring in the future, and that’s what we provide at our physical therapy clinic. We have a number of former baseball players on our staff who understand the mechanics and the forces at play as well as how they can affect a growing child’s elbow. If you want to keep your child playing baseball or whatever sport they choose, you need to be proactive in treating small elbow injuries before they become a lifelong problem.
So if your child is complaining of elbow pain, especially if this discomfort becomes more frequent with activity, consider setting up an appointment with a physical therapist. You don’t need a referral from your family physician, you can come directly to our center and let us handle everything from the examination and diagnosis to the follow through of a treatment plan. We also have video analysis and biomechanical feedback technology that can pinpoint form issues and have your child returning to the field stronger than they were before their injury. For more information about thrower’s elbow or youth sports injuries in general, reach out to the physical therapy team at OrthoRehab Specialists today.
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