What Causes Pitcher’s Elbow Symptoms to Occur?

If you’re into baseball or even just watch it occasionally, you might have heard of pitcher’s elbow. It can happen for different reasons, but it’s especially common among baseball players. Experiencing a pitcher’s elbow symptoms can mean taking a long break from pitching.

It’s a common injury in the throwing arm where you feel pain on the inside of your elbow down to your wrist. In serious cases, this injury might even end a player’s career.

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Injuries That Cause Pitcher’s Elbow

Medial Epicondyle Apophysitis happens due to the following types of injuries:

  • Tendons that help support the elbow get damaged or inflamed (called tendonitis).
  • The UCL, a ligament in the elbow, can get hurt, ranging from minor damage and swelling to a complete tear.
  • A tiny crack can form in the bone point of the elbow, called the olecranon.
  • Bone spurs can grow when the protective cartilage wears away.
  • The ulnar nerve can get injured from being stretched too often.

Common Pitcher’s Elbow Symptoms

Pitcher’s elbow happens because of the strain from pulling and stretching the ligaments and tendons in the elbow. It starts with swelling and pain inside the elbow when you straighten your arm.

Even if you can’t see any redness, you might still feel like your elbow can’t move much and have a lot of pain, almost like it’s bruised. Usually, the pain comes on slowly as you keep using your arm in the same way.

But it can also happen suddenly with a pop in the elbow or if something tears. Anyone who does a sport or activity that keeps stressing the elbow joint could get this injury. But some people, like athletes, are more likely to have it.

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Treatment Approaches for Pitcher’s Elbow

When your elbow hurts from throwing, the first thing to do is rest it. This gives your elbow time to heal from any inflammation or injury. Your doctor might also suggest using ice to reduce swelling and taking anti-inflammatory pills. For injuries that show moderate to severe pitcher’s elbow symptoms, the treatments include:

  • Physical Therapy
    Physical therapy is used to help improve movement and strength in all the muscles and joints needed for throwing. Initially, it focuses on easing pain, but it also aims to prevent future injuries. It makes your elbow better at handling stress. Getting stronger and more flexible can also boost performance when it’s time to compete again.
  • Throwing Analysis
    Improper throwing techniques can cause back pain even after treatment. Specially trained experts can analyze your throwing motion using simulations and videos to spot problems and suggest ways to fix them. This can improve your technique and your playing ability.
  • Surgery
    For severe cases, surgery might be necessary. UCL reconstruction, also known as Tommy John Surgery, fixes the pitcher’s elbow. It’s named after a baseball player who had this surgery in the 1970s.
    After surgery, physical therapy is important to regain movement, strength, and function. It usually takes about a year, sometimes two, to fully recover and get back to playing. The time it takes depends on the injury’s extent and the player’s age.

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Ending Note

Sports-related elbow injuries often happen because you use your elbow too much, not because of a big fall or crash. Therefore, refrain from overusing your elbow upon noticing any pitcher’s elbow symptoms mentioned earlier.

Visit Dr. Cusick at Michael C. Cusick, M.D. Our board-certified orthopedic surgeon is a specialist in shoulder and elbow surgery. Call us at (713) 794-3599 to secure an appointment.

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