How to Avoid Common Youth Throwing Injuries

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Every year I see youth baseball and softball players who have been diagnosed with “Little League elbow” or “Little League shoulder.” This can be scary for the athlete as well as the parent. With Little League and youth baseball & softball seasons starting up over the next few weeks, I thought it would be a good time to review this common youth sports injury and give a few ways to help reduce the likelihood of getting it.  

What is Little League Shoulder and Little League Elbow?

Little league shoulder, otherwise known as proximal humeral epiphysiolysis, and little league elbow (known as medial epicondyle epiphysiolysis) are very similar injuries. They both involve the growth plates at the ends of the bones becoming irritated due to overuse or increased stress. This will cause inflammation in the skeletally immature growth plates and can be quite painful. The good news is, rest and physical therapy can help the athlete fully recover from this injury. If left untreated though this can progress to a growth plate fracture or avulsion fracture which could end your athlete’s season, or even worse.

Preventing Little League Shoulder and Little League Elbow

The most common cause of these injuries is overuse, which causes overstress to the arm and the growth plates. Below are a few steps you can take to help reduce the likelihood or even prevent this injury.  

  • Gradually build up the intensity of throwing at the beginning of the year: Don’t start off throwing as hard as you can or pitching in games. Following a progressive throwing program that slowly builds up your arm is the best way to start the season.
  • Proper throwing mechanics: Using good mechanics by using your legs and core muscles to take stress off your arm is key to preventing this injury.
  • Follow pitch count and rest guidelines: Following pitch count guidelines like those found at Pitch Smart is a good way to prevent injury. Pitching while fatigued increases the athlete’s likelihood of injury by 36 times!
  • Don’t pitch or throw with pain!

Hopefully this gives you a better idea of what this injury is and how to prevent it. These are just a few tips for reducing the likelihood for injury for youth baseball and softball players. For a more in depth review on this subject check out my free report “7 Arm Care Tips for Youth Baseball/Softball.”

- Greg at Complete Game PT

At Complete Game Physical Therapy, we specialize in the treatment of youth baseball and softball players. If you or your athlete is experiencing shoulder or elbow pain, or you want more info on how you can prevent it call us at 978-710-7204, email me at, or browse our website. Also check us out on Facebook and Twitter for more tips on keeping yourself and your athlete injury-free.

Interested in learning even more about preventing arm and shoulder injuries in Baseball or Softball athletes? Enter your information below to receive my free report, "7 Arm Care Tips for Youth Baseball/Softball"

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Greg Crossman