Pitcher’s Elbow | What is It, Causes, & Treatment
If you play baseball and are a pitcher, pitcher’s elbow is an injury you want to prevent. It can be a debilitating injury, so it’s best to make sure you understand its causes and treatments.
What is Pitcher’s Elbow?
Pitcher’s elbow is indicated by pain or discomfort on the inside part of the elbow. More specifically, it’s an injury to the UCL (ulnar collateral ligament), which connects the inside of your upper arm to the inside of your forearm.
While this injury is not exclusive to baseball pitchers, throwing athletes, such as football quarterbacks, tennis players, volleyball hitters, can be more susceptible to pitcher’s elbow.
What Causes Pitcher’s Elbow?
There are 3 main risk factors that can cause Pitcher’s Elbow. Recognizing these risk factors as it relates to your injury can help determine the severity and cour
Young baseball pitchers, ages 9-15, are more prone to pitcher’s elbow because their joints, bones, etc. are not finished growing.
Since their growth is not yet finished, their bodies are not yet developed enough for the rigors of baseball pitching, so the speed, intensity, and velocity of a baseball pitch can be harmful to a young athlete’s elbow health.
Pitching Too Much
Overuse from pitching too much can also cause pitcher’s elbow. In the current sports landscape, athletes specialize in being a single sport athlete at an earlier age, while also throwing harder and playing year-round, which can take its toll on an athlete's body.
Improper Throwing Form
The biomechanics of efficiently and effectively pitching a baseball are very complex. As a result, improper throwing form is common, potentially leading to injury.
Correct throwing form utilizes a full body muscular chain reaction, which includes the mobility of your hip, spine, and shoulder. If any of these components is not performing its responsibility, it can cause you to overload stress on your elbow.
How to Avoid Pitcher’s Elbow
Pitcher’s elbows can be a severe injury that could require surgery if not treated properly, so taking the necessary steps to help prevent pitcher’s elbow is integral.
Making sure you include proper rest between pitching sessions, as well as taking time off during the offseason to decompress are important steps to maintaining your elbow’s integrity.
In addition, keep open lines of communication between you and your coach to check on your biomechanics occasionally to stay ahead of any potential red flags.
How to Treat Pitcher’s Elbow
Treating pitcher’s elbow is different for everyone, as it depends on the severity and mechanism of injury. Nevertheless, certain steps are included in all rehabilitation routines.
If dealing with pain and inflammation, rest and consult with a sports medicine specialist who can provide soft tissue manual therapy and modalities to get you out of pain and regain range of motion.
Once out of pain, a coordinated strength and mobility routine is your next step to getting back on the field. Then once ready to play, establishing a proper warm-up routine with foam rolling and stretching will put you in the best position to succeed!