Author: Rosemary Buckle, M.D.
As we’re mid-way through high school baseball season, it’s time to consider one of the biggest issues challenging adolescent players: elbow injuries.
A new infographic from Mayo Clinic takes a look at the rising rate of ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) injuries in teen pitchers (reposted below).
Young Pitchers Are Throwing Harder Than Ever Before
- High school pitchers have been clocked throwing 99 mph fastballs.
- Pro scouts report seeing hundreds of teen pitchers who pitch 92-95 mph.
- Many players are pitching year-round and playing in multiple leagues so that they can pitch more often.
This increase in speed and frequency is contributing to a rise in UCL injuries. Located on the inside of the elbow, the ulnar collateral ligament is subject to extreme stress through pitching. In fact, during a pitch, elbow ligaments can experience the equivalent of a 55 lb. weight hanging from the hand.
Adolescent UCL Reconstruction Surgery Is On the Rise
Between 2007 and 2011, 56.8% of all UCL reconstructions were performed on players between the ages of 15 and 19. Not only are these teenage athletes accounting for the majority of UCL surgeries, but this figure has increased by an average 9.12% year-over-year!
What Are the Symptoms of UCL Injury?
If you (or your teenager) experience any of the following symptoms, talk to your local Houston sports medicine physician, as these symptoms could be signs of UCL injury:
- Pain and soreness on the inside of the elbow
- Swelling of the elbow
- Frequently feeling the “funny bone” jolted
- Numbness or tingling in the arm
- Elbow instability while pitching
What Can Be Done for UCL Injury?
In many cases, UCL injuries can be improved through rest and other non-surgical options. In some cases, Tommy John surgery is necessary for repairing severe tears or UCL injuries that do not seem to be improving on their own.
How Can I Reduce My Risk?
Teen pitchers may be able to reduce their risk for ulnar collateral ligament injuries by…
- Following pitch count guidelines. Both Little League and the National High School Federation have pitch counts to limit overuse.
- Take time off. Playing year-round baseball may not be good for young, developing bodies. Take time off and limit the number of seasons you try to squeeze into a year.
- Train well. By building the proper strength and mechanics, pitchers can reduce their risk of injury.
Schedule With a Houston Sports Medicine Doctor
For more information about ulnar collateral ligament injuries, see a Houston sports medicine doctor near you. Call Houston Institute for Sports Medicine & Orthopedics at (713) 756-5546, or schedule your appointment online.
Please consult with your physician before undertaking any form of medical treatment or adopting any exercise program or dietary guidelines.