It has been reported that around 25-million boys and girls participate yearly in baseball and softball combined, with that number on the rise. As the number of participants increases, so too does the rise in injuries for athletes participating in these sports. With increases in travel and select teams, along with more tournaments throughout the year, youth sports injuries have become more prominent. In particular, injuries from overuse have seen an increase in prevalence. In the upcoming series, we examine several of the most common overuse injuries seen in youth baseball and softball players. First, let’s look at brief overview of each type of injury.
Growth plates are areas of bones where the most growth occurs. In the humerus, the bone of the upper arm, there are two growth plates: one by the elbow and one by the shoulder. In youth athletes, due to the attachment of ligaments and tendons, these areas can take a lot of stress during the throwing motion and eventually lead to small fractures. This injury is more commonly referred to as Little League Elbow or Little League Shoulder. In severe cases, surgery is warranted; in most cases, time off from sport in necessary. Signs of this type of injury can include pain and tenderness to the inner elbow above the joint line or tenderness around the front and lateral aspect of the shoulder, depending on which structure is most irritated.
Osgood-Schlatter’s and Sever’s Disease
These two conditions are injuries that happen at the knee and heel and are similar to Little League Elbow and Shoulder. At these locations, the difference is that they occur at areas not responsible for how the bone grows in length. Rather, they happen at areas where the bone grows in width. These conditions arise when the quadriceps tendon at the bottom of the knee or the achilles tendon at the heel exert too much force on the bones they are attached to. These areas can actually demonstrate an enlargement of the bone along with a great deal of soreness. Treatment of these conditions can include several months of rest from the athlete’s sport.
Spondylolysis is an injury to the lumbar spine most commonly referred to as a stress fracture or a stress reactions. The vertebral arch, an area that spans the articulating surfaces of each vertebrae, becomes overstressed due to continuous, repetitive compressive movements—such as rotation and extension of the spine. Over time, this stress can lead to the weakening and potentially fracturing of bones. Even prior to fracture, signs and symptoms can become present. These include pain in the lower back, apparent hamstring tightness, weakness in the lower extremities, loss of hip mobility, and decreased overhead flexibility. In severe cases, an athlete can be out o sport for upwards of 9 months, and bracing would be necessary. In less severe cases, it may still be recommended that the athlete rest for 1 to 3 months.
We discuss each of these injuries in more detail in upcoming blog posts. The goal for these posts is to be able to give parents and coaches a better understanding of these types of injuries so they can not only better identify any issue at hand, but also to have an idea of what steps to take in case they become worried an athlete is starting to develop an injury. The more knowledge a parent or coach possesses, the better of a job they can do in protecting their young athletes from having to miss playing the sports they love.
This article was written by our in-house physical therapist Terry Phillips
“Baseball and Softball Combine to Become Most Participated Team Sports in United States, According to SFIA Report.” Team USA, www.teamusa.org/USA-Softball/News/2017/May/18/Baseball-and-Softball-Combine-to-Become-Most-Participated-Team-Sports-in-United-States.