Recoup Recovery | Pitcher's ELBOW PaiN
PITCHER'S ELBOW | SYMPTOMS AND TREATMENT
Pitching is one of the most demanding positions in baseball, and in the entire sports world. This is especially true when it comes to elbow movements. Elbow pain is very common among baseball pitchers at all levels of baseball. The injuries pitchers sustain are due to overexertion of their arms, and over time will cause tears in tendons and ligaments in their shoulders. These injuries primarily affect the shoulder and the elbow referred to as rotator cuff injury and ulnar collateral elbow injury.
Because of this, it should be no surprise that elbow injuries are common among both amateur and professional baseball pitchers.
What causes ‘pitcher’s elbow’ injury?
A pitcher’s elbow is an injury to the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL), a tendon that connects the ulna to the forearm bone. The UCL is an important tendon, but sometimes when it is damaged, it can cause issues in other parts of the body, such as the elbow.
When it is injured, it can take time to heal, and it is important to recognize the signs to determine the severity.
Even minor strains in the elbow can take as long as 6 weeks to fully heal, and injuries that require Tommy John Surgery take a minimum of 12 months.
While Tommy John surgery is the most talked about when it comes to elbow injuries in baseball, strains and sprains are another common occurrence and should be treated properly to prevent further issues.
Treatment for sprain or strain involves resting the injured joint and applying ice or a cold compress. This may take a week or two to a month before the pain has subsided during throwing.
A player should avoid activities that could cause the elbow to bend sharply and further aggravate the injury.
Typically, with the injury known as "Pitcher’s Elbow", occur due to the following:
- AGE - Young pitchers, especially those between the ages of nine and 15, are at a higher risk for injury since their joints, bones, growth plates, and ligaments are still growing and are more susceptible to an injury when applying torque while pitching or throwing.
- FLAWED MECHANICS - Every young athlete starts with bad mechanics and learns to refine them through training. Most young pitchers drag their elbow slightly underneath the shoulder. This causes stress to occur on the inside of the elbow near their UCL. Proper throwing mechanics should be taught to youth players to help reduce the chances of an elbow injury.
- OVERUSE - Pitching in baseball is an unnatural movement compared to softball pitching. This is why baseball pitchers can only pitch once a week so that the arm can recover before applying stress on it again. Pitching too many games and pitching too often at home or practice is a big factor that leads to an elbow injury in pitchers. If you experience pain or discomfort in the elbow or shoulder while throwing then you should rest it--no throwing for 2-3 days until pain & inflammation subsides.
- THROWING CURVEBALLS OR SLIDERS - Breaking pitches like curveball and slider put additional stress on the growth plate and ligaments that lead to an elbow or should injury. These types of pitches should be limited, especially for younger players. The safest pitches to throw are the fastball & changeup for youth pitchers because you have less torque & rotation applied to the joints and ligaments.
70% of baseball elbow injuries occur in pitchers
How to treat pitcher’s elbow
How to prevent pitchers elbow
- DAY #1 - NO THROWING or light throwing at best. Pitching is just like lifting weights you need to let the muscle recover before you stress it again. If you don't allow your muscles to recover then the stress moves into the joint & ligaments. Running and light resistance training like bands is ideal for recovery in pitchers the day after pitching in a game.
- DAY #2 - Light throwing up to 90 - 120 feet, running sprints, and doing bands should be included in your routine on this day.
- DAY #3 - Long toss, sprints and bands. Now that the arm has had time to recover from pitching in a game we can start to torque the arm with a good long toss routine.
- DAY #4 - Bullpen day. Warmup with bands, calisthenics and stretch. Then jump on the mound for your bullpen. Keep your bullpen to 35-40 pitches max.
- DAY #5 - Light toss and sprints. Keep it light on this day, work on getting a feel for your pitch grips playing catch and then you will be ready for game day.