Common Youth Arm Injuries
Children’s Arm Injuries
Children’s and Adolescent injuries differ from adult injuries, mainly because the bones are still growing. The growth plates (physis) are cartilaginous (healthy connective tissue) areas of the bones from which the bones elongate or enlarge. Repetitive stress or sudden large forces can cause injury to these areas.
Repetitive overhand throwing can injure a child’ elbow. Throwing injuries in the elbow most commonly occur in baseball pitchers, but cricket also has an incidence level. Any child who participates in repetitive overhand throwing can suffer throwers elbow.
The overhand throw creates stresses on the growth areas. If repeatedly overloaded, overhand throwing of the immature elbow may result in excessive strain upon the elbow structures, such as ligaments, cartilage, and growth plates.
Medial Apophysitis (“Little Leaguer’s Elbow”)
Medial apophysitis causes pain at the medial epicondyle on the inside of the elbow. Medial apophysitis is a common elbow problem sustained by active children. The bone prominence, called the medial epicondyle, is at the end of the humerus bone and contains a growth plate called the medial apophysis. Muscles that control wrist motion attach to the medial epicondyle and excessive overhand throwing can irritate and inflame the growth plate. Young tennis players can also suffer this injury.
Osteochondritis dissecans is a common source of lateral elbow pain. The immature bones of the elbow joint can compress from excessive overhand throwing. Small fragments of bone and cartilage may dislodge and potentially float within the joint. Surgery may be required to remove the loose bodies.
The key to pain relief is active resting from the aggravating sport. If left untreated, throwing injuries in the elbow can become severe conditions. Depending upon the severity of a child’s injury, surgery may be required. If a child’s pain continues after a few days of complete rest, please seek the advice of your physiotherapist or doctor.
More info: Juvenile Osteochondritis Dissecans
Stress Reaction of Growth Plates (Physis)
Repetitive stress on a child’s growth plate (physis) in the arms or legs, if ignored, can impair growth. It can also be painful.
Overuse stress reaction may lead to irregularity or widening of the growth plate. If you continue repetitive stress, the growth plate may become permanently damaged and could stop growing prematurely. This premature cessation could lead to a bone deformity.
Sports activities that may cause a stress reaction in growth plates to include gymnastics and overhand throwing.
Gymnasts perform repetitive wrist activities that can lead to a stress reaction of the growth plate in the distal radius bone.
Young baseball pitchers apply forces across the upper arm bone in their shoulders during the overhand throw. They can damage their upper humerus (shoulder bone) growth plate. An abnormal growth plate in an X-ray of a child who participates in a high-risk sport requires Orthopaedic assessment. They may require surgical treatment. Until assessed, they should stop the aggravating activity for at least 2 to 3 months unless your surgeon suggests otherwise.
For specific advice, please seek the professional opinion of your physiotherapist or doctor.