Of all the players on a baseball field, pitchers tend to be more susceptible to upper body injuries. The immense pressure of the repetitive throwing motion can wreak havoc on their elbows and shoulders. And as competition increases it’s no surprise that pitching injuries are on the rise—as pitchers are throwing harder, faster, and younger than ever before.
While pitching injuries cannot be completely prevented, limiting the number of innings pitched and the number of months pitched per year will greatly reduce the risks. If pitchers do become injured, in many cases, pain will stop when a pitcher stops throwing.
The worst thing a pitcher can do is to continue to pitch while they’re in pain or fatigued. If you or your star player notice any of these signs or symptoms, it’s important to talk to an orthopedist to avoid a more serious issue or permanent damage.
Signs and Symptoms of Pitching Injuries
The most common signs and symptoms of pitching injuries are:
- Shoulder and/or elbow pain when throwing
- Pain and soreness that persists after throwing for two to three days
- Swelling or tenderness around the upper arm
- Longer time to warm-up
- Worsening performance
- Significant loss of velocity
- Loss of control during pitching
Diagnosing Pitching Injuries
A clinical evaluation by a sports medicine specialist will start with reviewing your medical history. They will typically ask about the pitcher’s throwing history, number of teams they play for, other sports they play, and when pain occurs.
The physical examination portion will include an analysis of the pitcher’s shoulder, neck, shoulder blade, elbow and trunk. A sports medicine specialist will check for:
- Range of motion
- Gluteal/core strength
A sports medicine specialist may order a number of imaging tests to see what is happening inside the body. These may include:
- X-Rays – especially important in young athletes, as most injuries occur at growth plates rather than ligaments
- MRI – Usually not necessary during initial evaluation, and only obtained if surgery is being considered
Treating Pitching Injuries
Most injuries in a throwing athlete can be treated successfully without surgery. A treatment plan will most likely include a combination or rest, physical therapy, and monitored throwing.