Throwing overhand again and again puts a lot of stress on your elbow. It can lead to injury. Young athletes, in particular, are at risk. Some play sports all year without learning how to throw properly. And, their bones are still growing. Let’s look at how the elbow can be damaged.
Causes & Triggers
Soft Tissue Injury
In many cases, overhand throwing affects the inner side of your elbow. Bands of tissue called “ligaments” (which hold bones together) can be stretched or torn. So can tendons. These are bands of tissue that anchor your muscles to your bones. You may feel pain at the bony bump in the inner side of the elbow. This bump is called the “medial epicondyle.”
Three bones come together at the elbow, and the ends of these bones are lined with cartilage. Repetitive throwing can cause these bones to bang or rub together. The cartilage can wear away. Bumps called “bone spurs” then grow where the bone is irritated. Sometimes small fractures develop in your bones. Young people have what is known as “growth plates” near the ends of their bones. Damaged growth plates make it hard for the bones to grow properly.
Overhand throwing can also cause nerve problems. The ulnar nerve travels along the inner side of your elbow. Throwing can stretch and irritate this nerve.
- Repetitive motion
- Overuse (especially from athletic sports)
Signs & Symptoms
If you have a throwing injury, you may feel pain in your elbow when you throw. Often, this pain is on the elbow’s inner side. You may not be able to throw as hard or as far. You may have numbness or tingling in your elbow, arm or hand.
- Compromised ability to throw
- Pain (especially during or after throwing)
Tips & Treatment
Treatment depends on your particular injury and your needs. In many cases, a throwing injury can be treated without surgery. Your healthcare provider can create a care plan that is right for your needs.
- There are several types of throwing injuries, reach requiring its own diagnosis and treatment from a well-qualified orthopedic physician, such as biceps tendon tears, bursitis and labral tears.
- Throwing injuries are often treated with a regimen of rest, anti-inflammatory medications or steroid injections, bracing, rehabilitation, and/or retraining or the throwing style or position.
- It can take 6 to 12 months for complete healing and recovery.
- Surgery may be required if there are rotator cuff or others tears, or if pain continues despite treatment.