Why Does My Elbow Hurt When I Throw a Baseball?

Many of us often forget that injuries are a big part of most sports. Basketball players are prone to ankle injuries. Football players are prone to concussions and knee injuries. Soccer players are prone to hamstring injuries. Swimmers are prone to swimmer’s shoulder, and so on.

Baseball is no different. Baseball players face common injuries like sprains, strains, fractures, and even concussions. Many pitchers, especially adolescent pitchers, may complain about pain or soreness or ask, “why does my elbow hurt when I throw a baseball?”

This can be cause for concern, as the pitcher may be experiencing pain from an underlying elbow injury.

Let’s discuss elbow pain in pitchers to help you understand these injuries better, what to look for, how you can prevent such injuries, and more.

Why Does My Elbow Hurt When I Throw a Baseball

Why Does My Elbow Hurt When I Throw a Baseball?

When pitchers throw a baseball, it puts unique pressure on the elbow of their throwing arm, particularly on the inner side of the elbow. These pressures are sometimes too much for the bones, ligaments, muscles, or growth plates (in children) in the elbow.

During a pitch, the motion of the throwing arm stretches the inside of the elbow while the outside of the elbow is compressed. So, the inside structures expand, and the outer structures contract due to the force being exerted on the baseball.

Sometimes the shoulder can also add pressure on the elbow during a pitch. If the pitcher does not put enough internal rotation in the shoulder while pitching, the reduced shoulder movement can put added stress on the inner structures of the elbow.

Inadequate motion from weak muscles in the shoulder and shoulder blade may also cause the elbow to feel pressure and drop during a pitch. Something like this can cause pain and soreness in the elbow, which is very common in children during the beginning of a season.

Adolescent baseball players, especially between the ages of 9 and 14-years old, can also develop something called little league elbow or pitcher’s elbow. Overuse or exertion of the elbow structures from repetitive pitching results in this injury. Medically, this injury is known as medial epicondyle apophysitis.

It happens because the inside of the elbow swells from inflammation in the growth plate. Pitcher’s elbow is most common among young players because their bodies, including the elbow structures and growth plate, have not fully developed yet.

What to Look Out for

Slight soreness or pain during the early season is normal as the pitching arm gets used to the physical aspect of throwing a baseball. Post-game soreness and slight shoulder pain are not something to worry about too much. However, players and parents need to take note of when such pain or soreness can become a concern.

Here’s what to look out for.

  • Post-throwing pain or soreness is pretty common. However, if the pain or soreness lasts past the next day, or the pitcher wakes up with considerable pain the next day, it is cause for concern.
  • If the pitcher can pinpointexactly where the pain or soreness is with one finger, this is a specific area of concern, which may be more of a problem than the entire arm, forearm, or shoulder area being sore or in pain.
  • If the pitcher does not regain full motion of their elbow the next day, it is a sign of an injury.
  • Numbness or a burning sensation on the inside of the elbow is also not normal.
  • Chronic elbow pain, even slight chronic pain, that causes the pitcher to perform poorly, throw inaccurately, or with less speed than usual is a sign of an underlying issue or injury.
  • Hearing a pop from the elbow before instant pain and restricted elbow movement likely means there is an injury to the growth plate.

If you or your child experience these things during or after a game, it is most likely an injury and requires some medical attention and subsequent recovery. Fortunately, with the right treatment, physical therapy, and recovery plan, most elbow injuries do not last a long time.

Preventing Elbow Injuries

As mentioned previously, injuries are a natural part of playing sports, but this does not mean we cannot take precautions. Here are a few things that will help you or your child prevent elbow injuries from throwing baseballs.

● Learn Proper Throwing Technique

Improper throwing techniques, especially with adolescent players, cause chronic pain and long-term elbow injuries. By learning and practicing proper throwing techniques, you can minimize added pressure on elbow structures, limit injuries, and ultimately throw better pitches.

● Limit Pitches Per Game/ Season/ Year

Even the professional MLB teams recognize injury from too many pitches and try to limit starting pitchers to 100 pitches. As a non-professional player, you should limit yourself to less than 75 pitches per game or per day. Similarly, you should keep your pitch count under 1,000 per season and under 3,000 per year.

As a preventive measure, teams should rotate pitchers during a game to give them sufficient rest. Moreover, if you feel pain or loss of full elbow movement from soreness during a game, you should stop pitching immediately to prevent further injury.

● Limit Pitching at Home

Pitching practice should be limited to training/ practice sessions and baseball games. If you are practicing pitching at home after a game or training, it can increase the total number of pitches per day. Pitching at home should only be limited to days when you do not have practice or a game.

Our Final Thoughts

If a pitcher, especially an adolescent pitcher, asks, “why does my elbow hurt when I throw a baseball?” it is a sign of an underlying issue or elbow injury. It is highly recommended to stop pitching at this point and seek medical consultation and rest.

By keeping an eye out for the issues we mentioned, you can ensure pitchers remain healthy, perform better, and win more games.

If you want to learn more about why your elbow hurts when you throw a baseball, elbow injuries, how to prevent them, or other baseball-related injuries and trivia, please visit our website today.

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