Little League Shoulder

By Dr. Lance Snyder

Why is Little League Shoulder Injuries Common?


Youth baseball for many athletes has become a year-round sport. I think this has led to a troublesome trend of overuse and thus injuries. In addition, the pediatric athlete is particularly susceptible to throwing injuries.  This is due to the stage of growth of their muscles, tendons, and bones.  In my many years of treating baseball and softball athletes, the education of parents and coaches is necessary to help prevent injuries.  Many area coaches have been very good at restricting the number of pitches per week and limiting breaking balls.

To learn more about the proper way to throw a baseball, please read this ARTICLE.

I believe it is so important to make sure that throwing athletes learn the correct way to throw.  When they have pain in the elbow or shoulder, their throwing technique should be looked at again.

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Little League Shoulder

Symptoms of Little League Shoulder

The little league shoulder typically presents with pain in the dominant throwing shoulder of baseball players. However, it can occur in softball, volleyball, and even tennis. The pain is typically located on the outside of the shoulder and often radiates into the arm. Furthermore, the pain is often insidious and does not have to have with trauma to the shoulder.

Anatomy of the Shoulder

The shoulder complex it has of the proximal humerus or the long bone of the upper arm.  It also has the scapula or shoulder blade and all of the surrounding muscles and ligaments. Structurally, the weak area of the proximal humerus is the physis, the growth plate.  I believe that this is where most of the problems occur.

For more information about the shoulder, go to: shoulder dislocation video

Pathology of Shoulder: What is Little League Syndrome?

The injury is essentially a Salter-Harris Type 1 fracture or an injury of the growth plate of the proximal humerus. Specifically, the damage occurs in the zone of hypertrophy or lack of musculature.  This is where the cells are enlarging in the little league shoulder.

Diagnosis of Little League Shoulder

In my experience, the diagnosis can be made with the history of excessive throwing, pain, weakness of the rotator cuff, and loss of motion. Radiographs can aid in the diagnosis process. The widening of the lateral growth plate is often exhibit in the x-ray.  Also, an MRI often shows an increase in swelling of the tissues in the area of the growth plate.

How Do You Treat Little League Shoulder and How Long Does It Take To Heal?

Finally, I believe that rest is the major component of treatment and up to 8-12 weeks is best. During this period, ice can be used to help with the pain. Physical therapy is recommended when the athlete is pain-free typically after 4-6 weeks of rest.  A return to sport throwing program is recommended to make sure that pain does not return during the healing process.

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JOI Rehab Treats Baseball Injuries

JOI Rehab has biomechanical software (Dartfish) that can conduct a video analysis.  This program can look at a thrower’s mechanics and evaluate their deficiencies. JOI’s goal is to help improve the performance of athletes to reduce the risk of injury or re-injury. Therefore, all 12 of our rehab centers are certified to assist in throwing performance as well as our sports center. If your baseball team is interested in a custom throwing session to improve your mechanics and techniques, call (904) 858-7045

JOI has 12 physical therapy clinics conveniently located in Jacksonville and Northeast FL.  Our clinicians specialize in orthopedic rehab and sports injuries. Therefore, our JOI team has the expertise and technological advances to get you back to your ideal level of function.

Related Articles: How to get rid of tennis elbow and the Trevor Lawrence Video.

Dr. Lance Snyder is an Orthopedic Surgeon at the JOI Baptist South Location. To schedule an appointment with him, please call 904-JOI-2000, schedule online, or click below.

By: Dr. Lance Snyder, MD

Dr. Lance Snyder in Jacksonville.

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