Every spring, kids across the U.S. dig their leather gloves out of their basements and gather at the local field for a game of pickup baseball. Some may join youth leagues and gain experience through competition that sharpens their skills. A very few enter into amateur tournaments where winning is the ultimate prize.
However, at a certain point, the health of youth athletes needs to be taken into consideration, and if one of your kids is a star pitcher, you need to watch out for some telltale signs of elbow and shoulder fatigue. While these might seem like relatively minor injuries because they don’t cause much acute pain, ignoring these signs can not only lead to early retirement for your little hurler, but it might leave him or her with joint problems for life.
Little league, big pressure
Even though many youth baseball players don’t really expect to make it to the professional ranks, the stresses of competition are real enough to cause the young athletes, coaches and even parents to commit everything they have to winning. In the case of pitchers, this can lead to too many innings pitched and too much stress on the joints of developing arms.
According to MomsTeam.org, young pitchers who threw more than 100 innings in a calendar year were 3.5 times more likely to suffer catastrophic injuries that required surgery to address. In fact, for every 25 pitches thrown after the first 50, youth pitchers were at an incrementally 1.5-times greater risk.
What’s more concerning is the fact that these numbers relate only to nonbreaking pitches, or just fastballs. If your child is a more talented youth pitcher who is capable of throwing curveballs, sliders or other breaking pitches, you need to monitor his or her development carefully. Breaking balls require slightly different arm mechanics than fastballs, and this movement puts significantly more strain on young pitchers’ shoulders and elbows. Thousands of promising pitching prodigies have flamed out too soon due to overuse of breaking pitches in their early years, and you should be on the lookout for even the faintest sign of arm fatigue if you want your little athlete to make it to the pros one day.
“Arm fatigue in youth athletes is normal, but pain and other symptoms are not.”
Shoulder the burden
Arm fatigue in youth athletes is normal, but pain and other symptoms are not. The first step in protecting your kids is recognizing the difference.
First, if your young athletes start complaining of pain that limits their ability to throw as fast or in a comfortable motion, you should pull them from the game immediately. This kind of discomfort may be a sign of an orthopedic issue that can only be corrected with clinical care, and further activity could cause serious damage.
Also, if your child feels fine in the moment of pitching, he or she may still experience pain the morning after when the shoulder or elbow has had a chance to stiffen overnight. This could be a sign of an overexerted body – and a serious call for rest.
To accelerate your young athletes’ recoveries, visit your local CareWell urgent care center for fast and affordable care.