Little League elbow is the name given to the condition caused by repetitive motion that affects the joint of the elbow in the point at which the upper arm bone, the humerus, meets the two forearm bones, the ulna and radius. According to the Children's Memorial Hospital, it is one of the most common injuries of young baseball players and typically affects pitchers between 9 and 14 years of age. Rehabilitation is used to treat the elbow and return it to game shape.
Little League Elbow
The technical name for Little League elbow is medial epicondyle apophysitis. It affects the growth plate -- a soft area of growing bone tissue in children and adolescents -- in the rounded part of the humerus specifically known as the medial epicondyle, which is the attachment site for the different muscles and ligaments in the forearm that facilitate the act of pitching. Inflammation and irritation can develop when stress is placed on the growth plate of the arm.
Since the symptoms are only exacerbated by further activity of the arm, rest is usually the most important aspect in the treatment of Little League elbow. Ice is also applied to reduce swelling. If the elbow continues to be aggravated by stress, the ligaments and tendons may tear away from the bone completely, often requiring surgery, especially in girls older than 12 years and boys older than 14 years of age. Physical therapy is often recommended to restore strength and stability to the joint. It is also used to decrease the stress placed upon the elbow and reduce the risk of incurring another injury.
Only a doctor or medical professional can suggest a specific exercise program and address any personal physiological problems and questions dealing with the progression of treatment. It is not recommended that you embark on a therapy program on your own. Some of the suggested exercises may include: the wrist extension, which is like a wrist curl but with the palm face down; a wrist pronation/supination, turning the palm face up and face down with weight in hand; a scapular retraction using a therapeutic band, pulling it back with both hands; a scaption, elevating your arms in a V formation to shoulder height; and wall push-ups. You should only start a physical therapy program when stress on the elbow can no longer cause any further damage and irritation.
Physical therapy can last as long as three to six weeks, or just long enough to establish a full range of motion and proper strength in the arm and upper back, after which time a training program will be used to gradually return the pitcher to his or her former playing capability. It will take another four to six weeks, depending upon many different factors, before it is possible to pitch in games again.