What is Little Leaguers Elbow?

About Little Leaguers Elbow

Little leaguer’s elbow occurs in baseball or softball players from ages 8-14. It occurs in young players who have not yet reached skeletal maturity.

The growing skeleton has areas in the bone called growth plates. These are the weakest areas of the growing bone.

There is a specific growth plate on the inside of the elbow where the UCL (or tommy john ligament) attaches.

When a young athlete throws a tremendous amount of force travel through this ligament and pulls on the growth plate in the elbow. The chronic pulling can cause pain on the inside of the elbow.

On an x-ray it can also cause the growth plate to widen.

This pain the athlete is experiencing is called little leaguers elbow.

Here are the top 3 ways to prevent elbow pain in young throwers

  1. Pitch counts – Every league at every level should be diligent in how many pitches a player is allowed to throw. Where most young baseball players run into trouble is when they pitch in multiple leagues. A pitcher under 14 should never be pitching more than 60-80 pitches per outing, and never more than 1- or 2 times at most in 7 days.
  2. Shoulder strength and flexibility – When a throwers shoulder lacks flexibility and strength the elbow will see more force. The more force the elbow sees the more chance of injury and pain. It is important for throwers to be familiar with the “throwers 10 exercises.” These are 10 exercises that your athletic trainer or orthopedic surgeon can show you to prevent injury.
  3. Cross training– Baseball or softball should never be played year round. It has been shown the best players take 3-6 months off of baseball at a time. It is important to cross-train or even be involved in other types or sports. This helps to build core strength, and lower body strength. Any big league pitcher will tell you, the velocity is not generated in the arm, it is from the lower body and the core.
Dr. Michael Gott is a Westchester orthopedic surgeon who is fellowship trained in sports medicine. He has also been an active member of the National Ski Patrol as well as a Member of the Windham Mountain Ski Patrol for 18 years.