Youth baseball shoulder injuries on the rise

Youth baseball shoulder injuries on the rise

For kids, baseball is not only fun, but a great way to stay active.

However, a greater number of kids today are experiencing shoulder injuries known as “Little League Shoulder (LLS),” reports a new study from Boston Children’s Hospital. LLS is defined as an injury to the growth plate in the upper arm that can lead to stress fractures and severe pain.

The American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine’s (AOSSM) finds that these injuries are becoming more frequent.

Dr. Steven Chudik, an orthopedic surgeon on staff at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill., says he is seeing a rise in this trend as well.

“I am seeing more and more young athletes in my practice with overuse injuries,” Dr. Chudik says. “I attribute this to the fact that children are participating in sports at a younger age, playing year-round, playing/practicing too often at too high of an intensity level and not taking the proper rest/recovery time between activities.”

The study identifies risk factors for spotting and preventing this injury. First, researchers say it is important to know the main causes of LLS:

  1. Repeated overhead throwing with improper mechanics – It is important that children playing baseball, especially those that are pitchers, learn the correct mechanics to help protect their shoulder and elbow from serious injuries.
  2. Lack of muscle strength and endurance – Again for pitchers, it is important for their arm to be in good muscular condition. If you are going to expect a lot of throws, make sure that their arm is strong enough to handle it.
  3. Too much throwing – Today, overuse in players starts early and can be seen in the professional ranks too. Experts recommend that your child gets proper rest between games and practices.

In the study, researchers reviewed nearly 100 cases of LLS in the past decade, and determined based on their symptoms and capabilities what the most identifying risk factors are.

The risk factors were as follows, in order of most prevalent to least:

  1. Reduced range of motion in check-ups
  2. Elbow pain
  3. Shoulder pain or weakness
  4. Other mechanical symptoms

If your child complains of any of these symptoms and plays sports, Dr. Chudik recommends to talking to a physician to get it checked out.

Researchers say LLS can have long-term effects on an athlete’s ability with treatment normally involving simple rest, physical therapy or even changing the player’s position on the field.

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  1. Shannon Homolka July 18, 2014 at 11:34 am · Reply

    Very interesting about overuse injuries. I’m amazed at how hard these kids work and practice today. My niece has softball tournaments every weekend where she is playing 3 or more games a day. Not to even mention all the practices during the week.

  2. This is not a surprise with the growth of travel baseball leagues. When I coached Little League most kids between the ages of 10 to 12 played between 20 to 30 games over the span of 3 months. Now I hear about kids 10 to 12 playing 70 to 80 games in that period of time.

  3. Rich, you are correct. I know of a 13yr old that played 94 games in a single season. On a travel team which also belonged to 2 leagues. All of the players were worn out at the end of the season with basically no time to rest before football season conditioning and practices started. I think the major problem is fathers trying to re-live their “supposed their great athletic prowess” as a youth/teen ager. Then it is the mother who also “pushes” for both high school and college scholarship potential. IMHO these so-called elite/top tier/tournament teams should be outlawed. I have seen kids who play on park district teams who are just as good as these so-called “elite” teams. Parents need to realize not to waste money on these “elite” teams when their child is average. The kids should have fun and not view it as a job. However, good outside instruction in proper techniques is important to prevent injuries and well worth the slight extra cost – a lot cheaper than a 4 or 5 thousand dollar “elite/travel” team costs.

  4. As an elite athlete my entire life, I have seen too many of these types of injuries. Volleyball took shoulders, knees, hands and ankles out of many of my friend’s lives for good. We all love a good game but something tells me youth sports are pushing the limits and not stopping anytime soon.

  5. Mark Neault, MD July 21, 2014 at 10:56 pm · Reply

    Excellent comments above. As an Advocate Medical Group Sports Medicine Orthopaedic Surgeon, I have seen the rise of overuse injuries as a serious problem among our youth athletes. For the baseball players, it is very important to follow pitch counts and have proper periods of rest. Al-in-all, it is much preferred to maintain the “Multi-Sports” Athlete and avoid year-round single sports. The variety of activity in different sports is one of the best ways to prevent overuse injuries. Unfortunately, our society is pushing these kids to mature and excel at extremely young ages. I spend a lot of time educating my patients and their parents about these issues and prevention.

  6. Interesting read. It seems that more young athletes are experiencing problems with injuries at earlier ages.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.