Spring is in the air. That means, among other things -- baseball season.
Fauquier Health physical therapists Bruce Edwards III, PT, DPT, and Kristen Pierce, PT, DPT, provided a community presentation at Battlefield High School in Haymarket on Thursday, February 23, to the Virginia Generals U8 baseball team, parents, and coaches. The Generals are a travel team in the Old Dominion Baseball League.
The presentation stressed that overuse injuries are the most common type of injury that affect young pitchers. It is estimated that up to 40 percent of young pitchers develop an overuse injury, with shoulder and elbow injuries the most common. An overuse injury is an injury caused by repetitive stress to muscles, tendons, and connective tissue. This is important with the younger population because growing athletes have more compliant connective tissue, open growth plates, and underdeveloped muscles. There are many theories as to why athletes are experiencing more overuse injuries, but the most often mentioned are increased sport specialization and the focus on year-round play.
Bruce and Kristen stressed that the best treatment for overuse injuries is prevention. In a February 2011 publication of the American Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers of a ten-year study reported that participants who pitched more that 100 innings in a year were 3.5 times more likely to be injured. Adhering to pitch count regulations and proper rest periods were stressed as key to preventing injury. Proper pitching mechanics, age appropriate types of pitches, competition during fewer than nine months a year, proper conditioning, stretching, and proper monitoring by coaching staff were also stressed.
If pain arises in the elbow or shoulder area in the youth pitcher, it is recommended that the athlete immediately reduces the amount and intensity of throwing. Ice and rest are recommended, but if pain persists after three days of rest, it is recommended that the player consult with a sports medicine physician. A study by Braum et al 2009, also recommended that physical therapy and rehabilitation, with very few exceptions, should be the primary treatment for throwing athletes.
Youth pitching injuries are rising at an alarming rate. Complaints of elbow and shoulder pain in the throwing athlete should be taken seriously. Proper rest is the most important weapon to combat overuse. However, if problems do arise, it is encouraged to collaborate with a sports medicine team, including physicians and physical therapists with an interest in baseball.
At Fauquier Health Outpatient Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, several therapists have a special interest in rehabilitation of the young athlete with throwing injuries and all other types of sports-related injuries. The goal is to get the young athlete back to playing pain free.