Little League Elbow (Pitcher’s Elbow)

Little league elbow at a glance

  • Little league elbow (also known as pitcher’s elbow or medial apophysitis) is an overuse injury that affects children and adolescents involved in sports such as baseball that require a throwing motion (pitching).
  • Little league elbow is caused by repetitive stress to the elbow’s ligaments and tendons from the muscles in the forearm pulling on the growth section of the elbow, and essentially is a form of tendinitis (irritated or inflamed tendons).
  • Symptoms include pain, swelling and restricted motion.
  • Treatment may include rest and ice, physical therapy, or surgery.

Causes of little league elbow

Little league elbow occurs when young baseball players (or participants in other sports requiring throwing) extend their arm in a throwing motion too hard or too often. Throwing a baseball (and similar motions) causes the forearm muscles to pull and stretch the soft tendons and ligaments in the medial epicondyle of the humerus (the part of the elbow that grows through adolescence).

With Little league elbow, the medial epicondyle of the humerus becomes overused, enlarged and, in more severe cases, torn. This condition worsens if activity is continued, and can pull the ligaments and tendons away from the bone, which can severely impact bone growth.

Symptoms of little league elbow

Symptoms of pitcher’s elbow include:

  • Pain on the inside (medial) part the elbow
  • Tenderness
  • Swelling
  • A restricted range of motion from the pain
  • The elbow joint becoming locked

Treatment of little league elbow

If a child is experiencing symptoms of little league elbow, they should stop pitching immediately as this condition often becomes more severe with repeated stress and can lead to major complications.

Nonsurgical treatments include rest and applying ice to the painful or swollen area of the elbow for a few days, as well as over-the-counter medications for pain and physical therapy. Once the condition clears, changing or refining throwing techniques may help prevent future injury. Be sure to talk to your pharmacist before purchasing anti-inflammatories as these medications may be contraindicated as they may interact with other medications and medical conditions.

If pain returns when pitching or throwing is resumed, further treatment is necessary and the child should stop the activity until the condition is healed.

Surgery may be necessary to reattach ligaments, remove loose bone, or perform bone grafting particularly in adolescents approaching or entering their teen years.

If you have a child who is experience pain and symptoms associated with Pitcher’s Elbow, contact us to request an appointment with one of our sports medicine specialists.