Saturday, January 14, 2012

How to Reduce Elbow Injuries in Baseball?

The humerus, radius and ulna bones make up your elbow joint. Muscles, tendons and ligaments hold your elbow joint together. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons classifies the elbow as combination hinge and pivot joint. The hinge portion allows your arm to bend and extend. The pivot aspect allows you to twist and rotate your lower arm. According to the American Sports Medicine Institution, elbow injuries in baseball pitchers are due to the large rotational force, known as torque, needed to slow down the cocking of the arm and accelerate the forearm, hand and ball forward.
Little League Elbow
Known clinically as medial apophysitis, Little League Elbow results from the repetitive throwing motion in young pitchers. Pitching a baseball creates a strong pull on the tendons and ligaments of the elbow. Pitchers suffering from Little League Elbow experience pain around the knobby bump on the inner aspect of the elbow. Repeated pulling can tear the ligaments and tendons away from the bone, disrupting normal bone growth. Nonsurgical treatment for Little League Elbow include the application of ice to the elbow and not pitching for a few days. Surgery is not usually recommended in pitchers under 14 years old.
Osteochondritis Dissecans
Osteochondritis dissecans occurs in pitchers in the 13 to 17 year old age range. Osteochondritis dissecans also results from excessive throwing. During the throwing motion, the elbow is compressed and smashes the immature bones of the pitcher together. Pain is felt on the outer area of the pitcher's elbow. Clicking or popping sounds while throwing are symptoms of this condition. Osteochondritis dissecans can lead to loose bone fragments in the elbow, requiring surgery to remove the fragments.
Ulnar Collateral Ligament Tear
During the throwing motion, the ulnar collateral ligament, or UCL, pulls the forearm forward with the rotating upper arm. According to the American Sports Medicine Institute, the amount of tension produced is close to the limit that the UCL can withstand. Poor pitching mechanics or pitching with fatigued arm muscles overloads the ulnar collateral ligament. This overload causes small tears in the UCL. Without enough time to heal, these small tears become one large tear in the ligament. Reconstruction of a torn UCL is possible. The process involves surgically removing the torn UCL and replacing it with a tendon taken from the pitcher's forearm, hamstring, knee or foot. The surgery is known as Tommy John surgery, in reference to the first pitcher to undergo UCL reconstruction.
Bone Chips
Small pieces of bone can break off and float around in the elbow joint. These small pieces of bone are called bone chips. The crushing force between the radius in the forearm and the humerus in the upper arm can lead to bone chips. Bone chips also result from the rapid extension of the elbow and the torque caused by the rotation of the arm. Bone chips result in elbow pain, diminished range of motion in the elbow joint and diminished pitching performance. Bone chips require surgery to be removed.

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