Little League Injuries: Proper Management and Care

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Little league baseball is one of the most popular sports, both in the United States and worldwide. Millions of children each spring take to the baseball field of dreams to hit, run, pitch, and catch, enjoying time with their friends and chasing the dream of one day making the big leagues. This means that so many children are enjoying the American pastime and exercising--it also means that many face the risk of common little league baseball injuries.

Keeping your child or children injury free can be challenging. Many young children are playing baseball year-round, with very little rest and with ultra-specialization in one position in baseball. This alone can lead to increased overuse injuries and lost time on the playing field. Managing your young baseball player's health and safety can be challenging, but it must be one of your top priorities while your child is participating in little league baseball.

Why is injury management and prevention so important? Because the proper management of injuries when your child is young can ensure that he or she has a good chance of remaining injury free in the coming years. Doing the right things, both on and off the field, can help your child avoid the common nagging injuries that can limit the fun he or she has on the baseball field.

Common Little League Baseball Injuries

No child is 100% safe from sports related injuries. Sometimes, trauma or collisions occur in little league baseball that can cause injuries. Other problems, like repetitive stress and strain injuries, are avoidable if the right steps are taken to prevent problems. Common little league baseball injuries include, but are not limited to:

  • Shoulder bursitis
  • Rotator cuff tendonitis
  • Elbow tendonitis
  • Ankle sprains
  • Knee ligament sprains
  • Hip strains
  • Concussion-type injuries

Most children enjoy little league baseball with no injuries or problems. Some children may suffer one minor injury, while others seem plagued by nagging injuries and complaints that limit their ability to enjoy baseball week after week.

Your job as a parent is to make sure you do the right things before injuries occur to lower your child's risk of injury. Performing the right post-game injury management protocol is also essential to keep your child on the field and out of the physical therapy clinic.

Let's take a look at common little league baseball injuries and how to best manage those injuries. Remember that the best course of action for any injury is to have your child evaluated and assessed by a doctor or sports medicine professional.

Initial Management of Inflammation in Little League Baseball Players

Many children benefit from following the R.I.C.E. protocol when injury and inflammation strikes while playing baseball. This R.I.C.E. acronym stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation.

The hallmarks of inflammation include:

  • Increased tissue temperature
  • Increased blood flow
  • Pain
  • Redness

Inflammation is your body's way of preparing the injured tissues for healing. The problem is that your body brings a lot more cellular material to the injured site than is actually needed. This hyper-active inflammatory response leads to decreased motion and mobility around the injured tissues. Long term immobility around injured tissues can lead to long term problems with regaining normal motion once the tissues are healed.

Following the R.I.C.E. protocol is important to managing the excessive blood flow to the injury site when inflammation occurs. Application of ice causes vasoconstriction, a narrowing of microcapillaries. Ice combined with compression and elevation further enhances this goal by limiting excessive blood flow to the injured tissues. Rest, the first step in the R.I.C.E. protocol, is essential to ensure that injured tissues heal and further damage is avoided.

Once the initial inflammation is managed with R.I.C.E., many experts recommend switching to using heat. Heating tissues causes vasodilation, or an opening up of blood vessels. This can help improve tissue mobility, wash out inflammatory cells that have gathered near the zone of injury, and improve overall range of motion and flexibility.

Management of Little League Shoulder Injuries

Baseball requires that all participants move their arms and shoulders through their maximal range of motion. Throwing, hitting, and catching all require full shoulder motion and strength to effectively perform these activities.

Common shoulder injuries in little league baseball players include:

  • Rotator cuff strains or tears
  • Shoulder tendonitis
  • Shoulder bursitis
  • Shoulder separation

Whenever your child complains of shoulder pain during or after participation in baseball, you should take these complaints seriously. Performing the right steps for self-care management may mean the difference between a rapid return to play or a season spent rehabbing a nagging shoulder injury.

At the first sign of shoulder pain, experts recommend following the R.I.C.E. protocol. Make sure your child rests the painful shoulder, and apply ice with compression right away.

Icing a sore shoulder can be difficult due to the contour and anatomy of the joint, so utilizing a compression wrap made specifically for shoulders is a good idea. The Pro Ice Youth Sized Shoulder/Elbow Wrap is the perfect therapy tool to accomplish this task. The wrap is sized for a child and is perfect for managing shoulder or elbow pain in little league baseball players.

After 48 hours of following the RICE protocol for shoulder pain, it may be time to start using heat to start to return to normal pain-free mobility. Heat should be applied using a shoulder wrap that surrounds the entire joint. The Theratherm Digital Moist Heating Shoulder Wrap is a versatile heat wrap that provides moist heat that professionals recommend. The wrap is the perfect size to use on your child's shoulders.

Experts recommend applying heat for 15 to 20 minutes several times per day. After application of heat, gentle range of motion and stretching exercises are recommended to improve shoulder joint mobility. Remember to avoid burns while using therapeutic heat. The best way to do this is to use a heat wrap designed specifically for your shoulder joint and follow the manufacturer's directions closely.

Most shoulder injuries can be effectively managed at home using ice and heat in the days after injury. If your child's shoulder pain continues for more than a week, he or she should consult a doctor.

Prevention of shoulder pain in little league baseball players is an important task for parents. Even if your child is not complaining of shoulder pain, application of ice after intense pitching or throwing is a good idea to prevent excessive inflammation as a result of the activity.

Many parents bring shoulder ice wraps to little league games to apply to their child's shoulder immediately after the activity so their child gets rapid access to icing. This can be accomplished using the Pro Ice Pitcher's Kit. The kit features the Shoulder/Elbow Ice Wrap with multiple ice packs and a convenient cooler for keeping your ice wraps cold while on the go.

Treating the inflammatory process with ice and heat is important, and ensuring proper throwing mechanics is essential. A visit to your child's doctor or physical therapist may be in order to assess the strength and range of motion of your child's shoulder. Exercises can be prescribed to help improve your child's mobility and rotator cuff strength to improve overall throwing mechanics.

If your child is a pitcher, working with his or her coach to keep track of pitch count may help save your child from serious shoulder overuse. Experts recommend a pitch count from 50 to 150 throws, depending on the age of your child. Be sure to know exactly what your child can handle while on the mound, and build appropriate rest days into your child's pitching routine to help preserve optimal shoulder function.

Elbow Injury Management for Little League Players

In 1974, baseball pitching star Tommy John underwent a major surgical procedure to repair the ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow. His surgeon replaced his ligament with a tendon, thus improving the stability around John's elbow and allowing him to continue his pitching career after a year of intensive rehabilitation.

Tommy John surgery (TJS) has become a popular procedure to repair the over stressed and over strained ligaments in baseball pitchers' elbows. But experts agree that the surgery can be avoided if proper steps are taken to prevent repetitive strain around the elbow joint, and this prevention starts at the little league level of play.

If your child is a little league pitcher, then your first step in avoiding elbow injuries is limiting pitch count. A high pitch count is one of the greatest risk factors for children developing ulnar collateral ligament injuries later on.

Once your child is done pitching, be sure to apply ice to your child's elbow, even if he or she is not experiencing pain. Following the R.I.C.E. protocol for inflammation management before inflammation occurs can help your child avoid painful, season limiting elbow injuries.

An elbow ice wrap that helps support your child's elbow and fully cover the joint is recommended. The ActiveWrap Elbow Cold/Heat Wrap is a versatile wrap that helps to provide comfortable compression while icing after little league baseball games. The wrap can also be used as a heat wrap for the elbow, which can come in handy once the initial inflammation has subsided and improved mobility is desired.

Ulnar collateral ligament injuries in children is a rare occurrence. Little league baseball players are more likely to suffer a condition known as little leaguer's elbow. This condition is a small stress fracture or injury to the growth plate on the end of your child's elbow. This occurs with improper throwing technique or with high pitch count in little league players.

Little leaguer's elbow is managed much like ulnar collateral ligament injuries--ice should be applied several times a day for 24 to 48 hours, and then heat should be applied to help improve blood flow and tissue mobility.

Most importantly, parents should recognize the need for rest in little league baseball players. Pitchers should limit pitch count, and players with elbow pain or injuries should avoid throwing activities until the pain has subsided.

If your child continues with elbow pain after playing baseball for more than a few days, a visit to the doctor may be in order. Your child may benefit from a course of physical therapy to learn exercises to do to help strengthen the muscles that support the elbow and shoulder. Exercises like the "Thrower's 10" series can help improve biomechanics in your child's entire upper extremity, helping him or her have a successful baseball season with no elbow pain or injuries.

Ankle Injuries in Little League Baseball

Ankle problems in little league are another common type of injury. The motions involved in running, batting, and throwing may lead to excessive forces being imparted upon the ankle, leading to injury. Sometimes repetitive stress and strain may be a cause of ankle pain in little league baseball players.

Common little league baseball ankle injuries include:

  • Ankle sprains
  • Achilles' tendonitis or tendinopathy
  • Posterior tibial tendonitis
  • Peroneal tendonitis
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Ankle stress fractures
  • Lower extremity growth plate fractures, known as Salter-Harris fractures

Managing little league ankle injuries can be difficult due to the convoluted contour of the ankle joint. Having tools that are specific to this body part can help the process of self-care and rehab once an ankle injury occurs.

Traumatic ankle injuries like sprains and fractures require the care of a sports medicine physician to assess the injury and to provide the proper treatment. Fractures need to be reduced and immobilized, and severe ankle sprains often require a period of immobilization while healing is taking place.

After trauma to the ankle, many experts recommend using ice to help control the initial inflammatory response from the body. Follow the R.I.C.E. protocol using an ice wrap specifically designed for ankles. This ensures proper coverage and consistent cooling around the joint and soft tissues. The ProSeries Double Ankle Ice Wrap is a good choice, offering full, all-around coverage and consistent therapeutic cooling with firm compression.

Ice should be applied to the ankle for 15 to 20 minutes several times a day for the first 24 to 48 hours after a traumatic injury. Be sure to follow your doctor's advice when providing any self care treatment for a traumatic ankle injury.

Once the initial inflammatory phase of healing is controlled with ice, your child may benefit from using heat on his or her ankle to help improve blood flow, flexibility, and mobility. Be sure to properly cover the heat wrap to avoid burns. Using a heat wrap specifically for ankles, like the Elasto-Gel Foot/Ankle Heat Wrap, is a good option.

After an ankle injury, your child may benefit from exercises to help regain normal mobility and strength and to prevent future problems. A visit with your local physical therapist may be a good way to learn what to do.

Exercises that your child may perform to help improve ankle mobility and strength include:

  • Active range of motion exercises like ankle circles and ankle alphabet.
  • Calf stretches
  • Ankle strengthening using a resistance band
  • Balance and proprioception exercises
  • Plyometric exercises that include jumping and landing properly

Remember that every child heals differently after an injury, so be sure to check in with your doctor or PT to ensure that you are doing the correct things to help your child recover fully from his or her ankle injury.

The best way to treat ankle injuries is to prevent them before they start. Of course, traumatic ankle injuries like sprains and fractures cannot be avoided. But repetitive strain ankle injuries can be prevented with proper training and conditioning and by using ice as a preventive first-aid treatment after every game.

Knee Injury Management in Little League Baseball

Although not as common as elbow, shoulder, or ankle problems, little league baseball players may be prone to knee injuries. Typical injuries of the knee may include:

  • Tendonitis
  • Knee contusions
  • Ligament sprains
  • Patellofemoral stress syndrome
  • Iliotibial band friction syndrome

Whenever a knee injury occurs in baseball, whether caused by overuse or trauma, you should take your child to a doctor or sports medicine specialist to ensure that proper treatment is started right away.

Traumatic knee injuries need to be evaluated by a doctor to ensure that a fracture or ligament tear has not occurred. After any trauma or collision in baseball that results in knee pain or swelling, ice should be applied as soon as possible. Following the R.I.C.E. method for the first 24-48 hours is recommended. Icing with the PolyGel ThermoActive Ice Wrap is a good idea to ensure maximal comfort, coverage, and compression. The wrap allows you to dial in a customized amount of compression while icing.

After a few days of using ice on your child's knee injury, switching to heat is recommended by most sports medicine professionals. This helps to promote blood flow to the injured tissues to improve mobility and motion around the knee joint.

The heat wrap you use should be fitted properly to the knee joint, and appropriate toweling or coverage should be used to help decrease the likelihood of burns. Using a heat wrap made specifically for the knee joint, like the ActiveWrap Knee Heat Wrap, can help ensure proper application and use of therapeutic heat.

Overuse and repetitive strain injuries around the knee joint in little league baseball players require rest to allow for proper healing to take place. If your child is complaining of non-specific knee joint pain with no report of a collision or other trauma, it is a good idea to have him or her evaluated by a sports medicine professional like a physical therapist to help determine the cause of the pain and to initiate the proper treatment.

Current evidence indicates that many knee injuries can be treated successfully with R.I.C.E., heat, and specific exercises to improve knee mobility and to strengthen the muscles that support the joint. Exercises may include:

  • Biking to improve knee range of motion
  • Exercise to improve quadriceps strength, especially a portion of the quad called the vastus medialis obliquus
  • Exercise to improve hamstring strength
  • Hip strengthening exercises
  • Balance and proprioception exercises
  • Plyometric exercises to prepare for high level jumping and landing

Before starting any exercise program for your child's knee injury, be sure to consult with a medical professional to ensure that exercise is safe for your child.

Management of Contact Injuries in Little League Baseball

The effect of concussions and other traumatic head injuries in youth sports is a topic that has garnered significant attention over the past few years. Concussions in little league baseball are a serious problem, and steps need to be taken to minimize and prevent these head injuries.

A concussion occurs when your child's head suffers trauma. This may occur if a baseball or bat strikes a child in the head, if a child falls and hits their head, or if one child's head forcefully contacts another child's head during play.

If your child has suffered any head injury while playing little league baseball, steps should be taken immediately to ensure that serious problems are mitigated.

Signs and symptoms of a concussion may include, but are not limited to:

  • Headache or pressure in the skull
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Vision changes
  • Sensitivity to light or noise
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Confusion
  • Feeling hazy or foggy

If you suspect your child has suffered a concussion, you must seek medical attention right away. A concussion is a brain injury, and serious and permanent damage may result if medical attention is delayed. Your child's doctor can confirm or rule out a concussion, and then you can take proper steps to ensure that your child returns to baseball safely when appropriate healing has taken place.

There is no cure for a concussion. Careful monitoring by your child's doctor is required to ensure that your child's brain injury is healing properly. Only a doctor can determine when a child is ready to return to baseball after a concussion.

There are things you can do to decrease headache and pressure symptoms that may accompany a concussion. The Elasto-Gel Cranial Cap ice wrap is the perfect therapy tool to use to help decrease headache pain after a concussive event. If your child is feeling eye pain or pressure after a head injury while playing baseball, the Chattanooga Ice Eye Mask can help relieve these symptoms.

One of the most effective ways of dealing with baseball concussions is to work to avoid them. Things that should be done to minimize the chance of your child suffering a concussion during little league baseball include:

  • Listen to the instructions of the coaches at all times and follow the rules of baseball.
  • Use appropriate fitting safety gear including batting helmets.
  • Children should practice good sportsmanship at all times.

Remember, any concussion should be considered a serious injury, and you should consult with your child's doctor right away if your child has suffered a little league baseball head injury.

Bottom Line

Little league baseball is a sport that is enjoyed by thousands of children worldwide, and it helps children develop basic skills like throwing, hitting, catching, and running while learning about teamwork and companionship. The sport may also lead to serious injuries of the shoulder, elbow, knee, or wrist if proper prevention steps are not taken.

As a parent, you want what is best for your child, and you naturally want your children to have a successful little league season with no serious injuries. Even overuse or repetitive strain injuries can cause frustration in your child and may leave him or her on the bench while teammates are enjoying time of the field. Keeping your child injury free should be one of your top priorities.

Some injuries cannot be avoided, but all little league injuries can, and should, be managed properly. Ensuring your child has access to properly fitting ice packs, heat wraps, and other sports medicine tools can help you treat injuries right away before they have a chance to become chronic problems.

Working with sports medicine professionals to learn the proper exercises to do to prevent injuries is a must. Consulting with your child's doctor after any injury occurs is important as well to ensure that appropriate treatment is started right away.

By working with your child's doctor and by keeping the right therapeutic tools on hand to manage your child's baseball injuries, you can be sure to keep your little league baseball player on the diamond and out of the rehab clinic.

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