Baseball is an interesting and complex game that requires both power and finesse. However, it has the potential to expose the players to injuries. Pitcher’s elbow, or medial apophysitis, is one of the most common baseball injuries seen in pitchers that occurs as a result of overuse or repetitive stress on the elbow. This condition causes pain and inflammation inside the elbow and limits one’s range of motion. The debilitating effects of this elbow injury make it difficult for the pitcher to continue playing their position.
If left untreated, it can progress to more serious injuries, such as ligament tears or bone fractures. Hence, if you are experiencing the symptoms, it is necessary to seek medical attention at the earliest. This article will explore the risk factors, prevention, and rehabilitation measures for pitcher’s elbow in baseball players.
Risk Factors Associated With Pitcher’s Elbow
Certain risk factors can increase one’s chance of developing a pitcher’s elbow, such as:
- Age: Younger players, especially those who are between 9 and 14 years of age, are at a higher risk for permanent injury due to their underdeveloped elbow joints. On the contrary, older adults may have a slower recovery after stressful activities that cause pain and overuse injuries.
- Overuse: All other risk factors seem to branch off of this factor. Making too many pitches per game, per season, or per year can contribute to an increased risk of elbow injuries. At the same time, pitching while fatigued or pitching without adequate rest adds to this risk.
- Improper mechanics: Using improper pitching techniques increases the stress on the elbow joint and results in injuries.
- Types of pitches thrown: Pitches like curveballs or breaking pitches tend to put additional stress on the growth plates and ligaments of younger players and contribute to the pitcher’s elbow. Therefore, the types of pitches mentioned should be limited to the youngsters.
Tips For Prevention And Recovery
Most doctors say treating the pitcher’s elbow is a challenge as the muscles and tendons that make up the elbow are located deep in the shoulder.
However, there are several treatments and recovery measures available for the pitcher’s elbow. Here are some of the non-surgical measures:
- Rest: The initial treatment for pitcher’s elbow is taking rest to reduce the symptoms and their recurrence. It is an essential part of the healing process.
- Physical therapy: If you are experiencing symptoms or want to optimize your performance or recover from a previous injury, physical therapy can be of great help. The therapists will work with you to identify the source of pain and improve your range of motion. Physical therapy treatment programs may incorporate various tools and techniques, like:
- Manual therapy: This is the most common type of physical therapy that utilizes arms or hands to help improve strength and motion. This can be done in 3 ways: active release technique (ART), where sufficient pressure is applied to break up scar tissue and restore mobility; myofascial release, where the therapists will use deep and slow strokes to stretch and loosen tight muscles; and trigger point therapy, which uses pressure to relieve pain and tension in the affected region.
- Exercises: There are many exercises that are recommended by therapists to rehabilitate a pitcher’s elbow. Walking on a stability ball, using an exercise ball or resistance band, weightlifting, and swimming are some of them. These exercises can improve the flexibility of the arm and range of motion. Doing warm-up exercises and stretching can reduce the strain on the shoulder blades and elbows.
- Yoga: Yoga poses, especially the child’s pose, are great for preventing elbow injuries from pitching. Yoga practice can restore mobility and flexibility and improve balance and coordination.
- Acupressure: Acupressure is a form of massage that uses pressure to stimulate the body’s energy and improve flexibility. It relieves pain in the shoulder, neck, and elbow by stimulating the production of endorphins, which are known as the body’s natural painkillers.
- Icing and compression: Icing the affected area and using compression sleeves or bands can reduce the swelling and inflammation of the affected area.
- Form management: It is important to get trained under a skilled and experienced coach or therapist to evaluate any faults in the form. Addressing this issue can lower the incidence of elbow injuries.
- Tracking games: Since overuse is the biggest culprit for elbow injuries, pitchers of every age should track their pitch count.
The pitcher’s elbow is a common overuse injury seen in baseball players that causes pain and inflammation in the elbow. It can be very frustrating and painful; however, with the right information and treatment, you can get back to your normal life. You can utilize the above-mentioned tips to safely recover and prevent future injuries.