What Parents Should Know About UCL Injuries in Young Baseball Players

When you have a young athlete, the last thing you want is to see them sitting on the sidelines with an injury. Unfortunately, sports injuries are becoming more common in recent years, especially elbow injuries in young pitchers.

At Orthopaedic Care Specialists in North Palm Beach, Florida, Thomas F. Saylor, MD, specializes in treating elbow problems, including ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) injuries. If you have a young baseball player in your house, here’s what you need to know about UCL injuries and how to prevent them.

Recognizing UCL issues

The ulnar collateral ligament consists of three strong bands of tissue on the inside of your elbow that attach your upper arm bone to your forearm. The most common cause of UCL injuries involves repeated stress, especially from throwing.

One of the most common signs of a UCL injury is inner elbow pain. Additional symptoms can include:

While UCL symptoms can impact your sports performance, they usually don’t interfere with daily life or other nonthrowing activities.

Why young athletes are at risk

Children, especially baseball players under age 15, have an increased risk of developing UCL injuries due to a number of factors, including:

To prevent UCL injuries, Dr. Saylor recommends limiting how many pitches a child throws on a regular basis and ensuring they get enough rest afterward, as outlined by the USA Baseball Medical/Safety Advisory Committee

Remember, pain isn’t normal when a young child throws something, so don’t ignore it. If they have elbow pain, remove them from competition immediately and get a medical assessment. And, before they return to pitching ― even if their pain isn’t from a UCL injury ― they should practice throwing progressions ― soft throws to harder throws ― to properly warm up their arm.

Treating UCL injuries in children

Whenever possible, Dr. Saylor recommends conservative treatments for UCL injuries first. These treatments often include resting the elbow, undergoing physical therapy, and evaluating your child’s throwing mechanics.

For more extensive injuries, Dr. Saylor might perform ligament reconstruction to repair tears. Unfortunately, even with minimally invasive surgery techniques, recovering from UCL surgery can be slow, and some athletes can’t return to full throwing strength for 9-12 months.

To learn more about UCL injuries in young athletes or to seek treatment, book an appointment online or over the phone with Orthopaedic Care Specialists today.

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