How Pitchers Can Prevent Elbow Injuries | STACK
X

Become a Better Athlete. Sign Up for our FREE Newsletter.

How Pitchers Can Prevent Elbow Injuries

November 16, 2012 | Dr. Robert Truax

Must See Sports Injuries Videos

Every season, you hear about major league pitchers who undergo Tommy John surgery and spend extended time on the disabled list. While men on the mound are more susceptible to elbow injury than other ballplayers, injuries are not an inevitable consequence of throwing hard. In fact, knowing the real causes of elbow pain and staying alert for injury symptoms can help pitchers keep on throwing. (Learn how to keep your shoulders healthy.)

Causes

The ulnar collateral ligament, or “UCL,” is a supporting ligament on the inside portion of the elbow. For pitchers, UCL may as well stand for “utterly crucial ligament," since it is responsible for holding the elbow joint together during throwing, especially in the early (acceleration) and late (cocking) phases of a pitch. Older players usually tear this ligament, whereas Little League and junior high players usually injure the bone to which the UCL attaches. The injury rarely results from a single event. It builds up over time, due to the constant stress of repeated throwing.

Symptoms

If you feel an ache in your elbow and notice a decrease in your pitching velocity or control, your UCL is telling you something is wrong. When this happens, it’s critical to stop pitching and get evaluated. Once you have the proper diagnosis, you can enlist in a good rehab program that can get you back into the game.

Prevention

The first step pitchers can take to keep their UCLs healthy is to monitor their pitch counts. This is particularly important for younger players who are still physically immature. Keep track of  your pitch numbers and don’t overdo it.

The second and third strategies are interrelated: use good throwing mechanics and build core strength. For example, a basic rule of pitching form is to keep the elbow above the shoulder during the acceleration phase of the throw. This reduces stress on the ligament. To keep your elbow above your shoulder pitch after pitch, game after game, requires good core strength. (Learn how to build core strength.) And by “core,” we’re not just talking abs; the legs and back must also be strong enough to support an explosive throwing motion.

If you do injure your UCL, you have treatment options, including Tommy John surgery. Read Tommy John Surgery and Baseball Pitchers to learn more about the post-injury alternatives pitchers have.

Topics: PITCHER
Dr. Robert Truax
- Dr. Robert Truax is a board-certified doctor in sports medicine, family medicine and osteopathic manipulative treatment at University Hospitals in Cleveland and an assistant professor...
Dr. Robert Truax
- Dr. Robert Truax is a board-certified doctor in sports medicine, family medicine and osteopathic manipulative treatment at University Hospitals in Cleveland and an assistant professor...
More Cool Stuff You'll Like

6 Ways to Prevent Common Sports Injuries

As an Athletic Trainer and Strength coach, I'm often asked by coaches and personal trainers how to prevent injury in their athletes and clients. This...

Tips for Working Out With a Hand or Arm Injury

Impressive Advances in ACL Rehab

5 Tips to Intelligently Train Through Lower Back Pain

4 Strategies to Prevent Tommy John Surgery

The Future of Sports Injury Rehabilitation

How to Train With Running Blisters

Connective Tissue: The Key to Preventing ACL Injuries

Outsmart Injury With These 4 Predictive Tests

Will Joel Embiid Be Able to Succeed in the NBA?

How to Avoid Softball Pitching Injuries

Why Strengthening This Muscle May Fix Knee Pain

3 Ways to Prevent the Most Common Hockey Injury

How to Bench Press With a Shoulder Injury

Why a Sports Hernia Won't Ruin Jadeveon Clowney's Rookie Season

How to Prevent Injuries With 3 Yoga Poses

Evan Gattis's Protection-Enhanced Catcher's Helmet

How Cristiano Ronaldo Can Defeat the Witch Doctor's Curse

5 Exercises to Prevent ACL Tears

5 Bodyweight Exercises to Prevent Baseball Injuries

Pectoral Tendon Ruptures and Injury Prevention

Prevent ACL Injuries With This Hamstring-Focused Workout

How to Protect Yourself From Heat Stroke This Summer

3 Causes of Recurring Hamstring Injuries

Bulletproof Your Body with 5 Easy Injury Prevention Exercises

4 Sports Massage Techniques to Relieve Tight Muscles

6 Steps for Recovering From a Season-Ending Injury

2 Ways to Fix Anterior Pelvic Tilt

Predicting the Impact of DeMarco Murray's Hand Injury

Avoid Low-Back Pain With These 7 In-Season Exercises

6 Simple Tips to Prevent Knee Injuries

The Secret Weapon Powering Stephen Curry's Resurgence

Quarterbacks: 4 Tips to Keep Your Throwing Shoulder Healthy

How to Prevent Baseball Injuries During the Off-Season

Achilles Tendon Ruptures: Prevention and Recovery

How to Fix Anterior Pelvic Tilt

What You Need to Know About Tiger Woods' Back Injury

How to Keep Your Feet Healthy On and Off the Field

10 Ways to Fix Back Pain

The 8 Most Dangerous Exercises for Your Shoulders

3 Reasons to Correct Your Weak Links to Prevent Common Injuries

8 of the Most Ridiculous Off-Field Athlete Injuries of All Time