Little League Elbow: Cause, Diagnosis and Treatment

Little league elbow is caused by repeated stress injury to the elbow joint. It is seen in skeletally immature (bones are still growing) children. It is the result of excessive throwing by baseball pitchers.

It would be a good idea to review the Elbow Joint Anatomy before reading further.

Combination of one or more of the following conditions is seen in pitchers with this injury

  • stress fracture of the medial epicondylar physis (growth plate)
  • increase in size of the medial epicondyle
  • calcium deposition in the ulnar collateral ligaments
  • stiffness and swelling in the elbow joint
  • damage to the cartilage of capitulum (surface of the outer side of the humeral part of elbow joint)

Symptoms of Little League Elbow include

  • history of excessive number of pitches or the pitcher has started throwing curved pitches
  • pain and swelling over the inner side of the elbow (medial epicondyle)
  • pain is increased by pressing over the inner side
  • inability to extend (straighten) the elbow joint

X rays are taken to confirm the diagnosis.

When ever a joint is over stressed it tries to strengthen it self by a increase in the calcification of bones. This is seen as

  • increased density in bones of the elbow joint
  • increase in size of the bones
  • bones appear more mature for age (growth lines are faint or absent)

Treatment includes

  • complete rest to the elbow joint by stopping all pitching and other exercises
  • use of anti-inflammatory (indomethacin in particular) medication
  • intermittent splintage of the elbow can be done to give it rest
  • after the elbow is pain free and movement has returned completely physiotherapy is started
  • pitching is gradually resumed as muscle strength builds up

Frequently Asked Questions

What can be done to prevent this condition?

Guidelines of Little League state that there should be only two innings per game and six innings per week. It has been found that if these guidelines are followed then the incidence of this injury is low. Excessive pitching practice should be avoided. Proper pitching technique should be followed. Parents and coaches need to be more aware.

How long does it take to recover?

The earlier the injury is recognized the shorter it takes to recover. It can take 2 to 3 months for complete recovery.

I hope the information provided was helpful. If you have any query you can ask me at the contact me page.

This page was last updated on 11th February 2009.


Other causes of elbow pain...

Radial Head Fracture

Pulled Elbow

Olecranon Fracture

Tennis Elbow

Golfers Elbow

Olecranon Bursitis

Elbow Dislocation

Supracondylar Fracture

Lateral Condyle Fracture

Elbow Fracture

Elbow Joint Anatomy

Go back from Little League Elbow to Elbow Pain




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