How to Prevent ‘Little League Elbow’

As a Coach of 9 and 10 year olds, my husband has always monitored the pitch count of our pitchers in a game.  He never lets them go too long.  He is always trying to prevent injury and keep those young arms healthy.

In October, our son, a 10 year old pitcher, was pitching in a game.  He said there was that “one pitch” that “hurt his elbow”.  Hmmm

Of course, we took this seriously, iced it, and kept an eye on it.  After a few days, the pain was still there.  Not good.

After my husband did some research on the internet, we knew something was up, and took him to a pediatric orthopedist.

He had ‘Little League Elbow’.

‘Little League’ What?  What in the world???

‘Little League Elbow’ is something that most commonly occurs between the ages of 8-15 in children that do a lot of OVERHAND THROWING.  It is an injury caused by OVERUSE of REPETITIVE THROWING motion.  The overuse puts too much pressure on the growth plate of inner side of elbow, where the ligament attaches to the growth plate.

HealthyChildren.org says, “Growing Bones are easily injured because the growth plate is much weaker than the ligaments and muscles that attach to it.”

We explained to the doctor that we were NOT crazy aggressive coaches but that we always kept a count of his pitches, etc. etc.

He was happy to hear that but explained to us that it’s not only PITCHING in a game but can include playing CATCHER in a game and all of the warm-up before the game and in between innings.  If a kid throws 50 pitches in a game, then plays catcher in the next few innings, this quickly adds up to 100 THROWS in a day…or more!

He also explained to us that it is not only pitching and catching in a day/game but the OTHER THROWING that we don’t think about.

How many times does he throw in PE?  How about the Fitness Program before school?  What about Recess?  How many throws happen when he’s throwing a ball up against the house in the driveway?

It all adds up.  This is why I wanted to spread the word…

It’s not all about pitching, or catching, or outfield throwing, or just baseball…it is the accumulation of it all and being young, active boys.

The doctor said to rest the arm for 3-4 weeks.  For our son, it took a little bit longer.  We were fortunate that our Fall season was getting ready wrap up so he would have a long off season to heal.  He had to wear a sling for a couple of weeks to remind him not to use his arm.  He was not very happy.  After the pain stopped, he had to do some strengthening exercises that the doctor sent us.  The doctor also said that it was ok to play basketball, or something else that uses other muscles besides the “throwing muscles”.   But, also no Frisbee, or push-ups for a while… it would put too much stress on the elbow.

It is essential to have “normal rest” after pitching which includes NO THROWING during days off and during normal play activities.  Our son has learned to use his non-dominant left arm for throwing in PE at school, etc.

Every league has different rules on resting between days they pitch but “common sense” rules for 9/10 year olds include:

Throws more than 25 pitches, good idea to rest 1 day

Throws more than 50 pitches, 2 days rest between appearances

Throws more than 70 pitches, 3-4 days rest between appearances

Do NOT throw more than 70 pitches in a day!

My husband is extra careful not to let pitchers-catch and catchers-pitch in the same day if at all possible.  Recently, we had a double header and were quickly running out of pitchers so some had to double up for some quick innings.  Again, the total THROW count was low.

So, please keep an eye on the number of throws your boys do in a day.  Add in PE, Fitness Club, Recess, outside play at home.

My son used to throw a ball against the wall in the basement before this happened.  It’s hard being such an active boy.   Again, he has learned to throw with his non-dominant left arm and has actually gotten pretty good at it.  In every challenge, you can find success….

For more information, please check out these important links about ‘Little League Elbow’

healthychildren.org

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta

Let’s keep those arms healthy!!

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Playing Baseball in the HEAT-Spring Edition

As the weather gets warmer, it’s time to start thinking a little differently in terms of playing baseball in the HEAT.  In Georgia, it is not uncommon for it to get to 80 degrees in April.  Then, put a team of 9/10 year olds on the field in the direct sun during long innings, and you can have a little situation on your hands.

The players get extremely hot and sometimes overheated during times like these, so here are some tricks to keep your players healthy and cool:

*Make sure they hydrate 2 days before, as well as the day of your game.  If you wait until the day of your game, by then it is too late.  I heard this from Tom Glavine of the Atlanta Braves when he was asked, “How do you survive playing in 100 degree heat?”  That was his answer. You have to hydrate 2 days before your game…If the body is well hydrated, your player will have a better chance of feeling better during the game, playing better, have less cramping, and a better chance of not getting overheated.

*NO DAIRY in the morning if they have a game before noon.  I have seen a few players have some stomach issues because they had yogurt or other dairy products for breakfast before a 9:00am game in the hot weather.  Not a good idea.  Did you guys hear about the time that Justin Bieber threw up on stage during his concert because he drank milk right before he went on?  Yuck!  You get the idea….

*Have your child drink plenty of water, Powerade, Gatorade, etc. DURING the game….make sure your player has a full thermos of ice water and drink it every chance they get.  Please remind them that it’s important to stay on top of it and drink BEFORE they get too hot or thirsty.

On really hot days, I will take ice packs or a sandwich bags filled with ice, put them in a cooler and let the boys put them on the back of their necks and wrists to cool them down between innings.  They are so grateful that someone recognizes that they need this.  I also have the little fans that can hang around their necks so they can feel some cool air blowing on their face.  It’s not a bad idea to ask the parents to purchase a FrogTog towel for their player since it stays cool, it can go around the neck, and they can cool down in between innings.

Afterwards, I’ve seen my son play a hot game but not seem to be able to get his energy back in the hours following the game.  His pediatrician had already told me to give him on Carnation Instant Breakfast to help him catch up with his weight… but… this drink also gives great energy since it is filled with vitamins and nutrients, so I decided to use it as a post-game recovery drink.

It works wonders.

I mix the Chocolate Carnation powder with 12 ounces of whole milk and he has a nice, cool, refreshing drink that helps him feel full, cooled down, and revitalized. I had already heard that Chocolate Milk is good for muscle recovery, and with Carnation being a Nutritional Drink, it got my wheels turning and I decided to make it into a smoothie.

It just hits the spot.  I use it myself after a workout and it is perfect.

I use:

  • 12 ounces of milk… for kids I use whole milk since my son is a little underweight, for myself I use skim milk.
  • 1 Carnation Instant Breakfast Powder Packet – Chocolate or Vanilla Flavor–or Protein Powder for Adults
  • Frozen Blueberries (a handful) if desired—acts as the ice cubes in your smoothie
  • Banana
  • 1 Tablespoon of Peanut Butter
  • For Fun: I just MIGHT put a scoop of chocolate or vanilla ice cream– just for my son, not for me. 🙂
  • For Adults:  I will put in 1 Tablespoon of Chia Seeds and/or Flax Seed

Also, with smoothies it is suggested that you put them in your blender in this order:

  1. Liquid first—this will help your blades move easily when you turn on your blender
  2. Powders next—protein powder, cocoa powder, Carnation Instant Breakfast.
  3. Soft Foods—Bananas, etc.
  4. Hard Foods—frozen fruits, raw veggies
  5. Ice Cubes—LAST! They will help the blades pull all the other ingredients down.

I found a pack of Smoothie Straws that help drinking these a lot easier.

We play a month of summer baseball and it is an entire different “ballgame” in terms of staying cool.   The heat index can easily get up to 100 degrees.  I will post about “survival tips” in ‘Playing Baseball in the Heat-Summer Edition’ very soon.

In the meantime, Stay cool, friends, and have a great Spring!