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Overuse injuries in throwing athletes

The baseball season is in full swing across the Valley.

Young athletes are hitting the fields to perfect their skills, but sometimes they can get hurt.

Overuse injuries in throwing athletes are something doctors across the country are treating a lot of these days.

Dr. Shelden Martin with OrthoArizona talked about a few of those injuries and how to get young players back out on the baseball field.

The first condition that Martin sees is something called Little League Shoulder.

“This is a condition caused by repetitive stress that goes through the cartilage growth plate in the upper part of the humerus bone,” Martin said. “The cartilage growth plate is the weak link of the system and receives all of the stress.”

Little League Shoulder is commonly seen in pitchers and throwing athletes.

“It can cause pain, stiffness in the shoulder and lead to decreased throwing velocity,” Martin said. “The patients are also usually tender when I push on the upper part of their arm.”

Martin can diagnose this condition during a physical exam in his office and with an X-ray.

“The X-ray may show an abnormality at the growth plate,” Martin said.

When it comes to treating Little League Shoulder, rest and physical therapy can usually resolve the problem.

The next injury that Martin sees in pitchers and throwing athletes is something called Glenohumeral Internal Rotation Deficit.

“In order to throw a baseball at 90mph, the pitcher has to be able to fully externally rotate their arm at their shoulder,” Martin said. “So they undergo adaptations where they gain more external rotation but it’s at the cost of losing internal rotation.

“Overall the net arch of their shoulder rotation decreases and causes pain, stiffness and decreased throwing velocity,” Martin continued.

Once diagnosed the treatment strategy involves stretching exercises.

“The athletes will perform sleeper stretches to work on regaining that internal rotation and stretching out the posterior capsule in the shoulder which tightens up overtime,” Martin said.

The last condition is Little League Elbow.

“The athletes feel pain on the inside part of the arm,” Martin said. “ What is happening is there is stress going through the growth plate in the end of the humerus bone just above the elbow joint.

Martin sees Little League Elbow in ages 12 to 16 as well as older individuals.

“After the growth plates have closed and the athletes continue down the route of throwing excessively and repetitive use, this can lead to what is called a Tommy John injury,” Martin said.

Surgery is an option to repair the injured elbow ligament in this instance.

Younger athletes can be treated for Little League Elbow with rest and physical therapy to work on their throwing mechanics and core strengthening.

For more information visit Dr. Martin’s injury prevention section.

About Shelden Martin

I've had the privilege of working with many professional, collegiate and high school athletic teams. I am currently the head team physician for the 2012 AFL World Champion Arizona Rattlers. I have also presented research both nationally and internationally and published extensively in peer-reviewed literature.