What To Do If You Have Little League Shoulder: And How to Prevent It From Happening Again
Two years ago in the middle of his summer season, my son experienced arm pain on the side of his right throwing shoulder where one might have an “I Love Mom” tattoo.
We shut him down for a couple of days, and after that, despite a significant decrease in velocity and control, he more or less pitched through it.
Six months later, it happened again. This time, it occurred after a winter indoor league. This time, we shut him down for nearly six weeks.
Six months later, it happened again in the middle of our championship game. This time we went to a physical therapist who diagnosed him with little league shoulder.
Little league shoulder is a common ailment among youth baseball players, especially pitchers, between the ages of 9 and 16. The problem stems from the repetitive overhand throwing motion, which can cause a widening of the growth plate, resulting in significant pain and discomfort.
Ignoring the pain and discomfort and continuing to throw can cause catastrophic damage, including disfigurement. Doctor’s liken severe little league shoulder with a stress fracture.
Imagine continuing to play baseball with a broken arm…
Little league shoulder happens primarily to young athletes whose growth plates are not totally developed.
But it can be prevented. And here is how.
Throwing a baseball efficiently without over-straining the arm depends on a transfer of energy from the ground up called the kinetic chain. Energy flows from the foot through the leg through the core through the shoulder all the way to one’s fingers and the ball.
I wrote an article about some of the most important lower-half checkpoints for pitching mechanics and the kinetic chain that you can check out right here.
Little league shoulder occurs when there is a breakdown in the kinetic chain, usually caused by a weaker muscle group, such as one’s legs or core, which results in more strain on the arm.
Strengthening the muscle groups in the kinetic chain allows for a better distribution of energy throughout the body and less stress on the growth plates in the arm.
Here are the exercises my son was given by his physical therapist, which solved his little league shoulder problems for good.
Doctor prescribed physical therapy to treat and prevent little league shoulder can be broken down into three parts.
- Stretching: (This includes hamstrings, hip flexors, side-lying sleeper stretch, and side-lying T’s.)
- Core (This includes facedown broomstick press, shoulder blade pushups, beast pose downward dog toe taps, and side planks.)
- Resistance Bands (This includes shoulder rows to hips & hold, single leg scarecrows, single leg YTW, ER@0, IR@0)
This exercise routine should be completed twice a week and lasts anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how quickly the athlete completes the routine.
Please find a short video below demonstrating a few of these excercises.