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Warning Issued For Young Little League Athletes

PIrates3, Photo credits Berkeley Little League

The excitement of hosting the State Little League Championships in Ocean County also brings to mind some of the common ailments suffered by young athletes. One such ailment is called Little League Elbow (LLE). Doctor Joseph Tauro, Assistant Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at Rutgers Medical School, with private practices in Brick and Toms River, said LLE is caused by the constant pulling of the elbow’s ligaments from the growth plate by repetitive or incorrect throwing.

“Where that bone is attached to that growth plate, actually pull on that growth plate and actually start to separate the growth plate, actually cause a fracture in the growth plate.”

Tauro said LLE is one of the top five health concerns among Little League players today and it’s becoming more common. One of the main symptoms of LLE is pain, according to Tauro.

“When you have micro-fracturing of your growth plate you get pain right on the inside aspect of the elbow.”

So who’s most at risk? According to Tauro, it’s the most driven players pitching in multiple innings without rest and those who play in multiple leagues, through multiple seasons.

Tauro said the main treatment for LLE is rest. “That could take anywhere from four to eight weeks. You know, during that time as the pain subsides, we’ll work on gentle stretching and strengthening of the arm.” He said in the most severe cases, a player could require surgery but that’s very rare.

Tauro advises parents and coaches to not encourage young athletes to play through the pain because it can be counter-productive in the long run. He said if left untreated, LLE could impact a player’s future ability to pitch and they could also develop problems with their hips, legs, shoulders and backs.

He notes that these injuries are not unique to young athletes.  He said “there’s also kind of an epidemic of elbow problems in older athletes, in college and in the pros. “You have all these athletes now getting Tommy John surgery and the mechanism of injury and the things that cause Little League Elbow is exactly the same as what causes an adult thrower elbow problems. So it actually doesn’t end after the growth plate closes and we stop calling it Little Leagues Elbow”

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