This may be the biggest mistake I see. Players want to compete. Coaches want to win. Parents want the kids to succeed. But, any overhead athlete that plays through arm pain is setting themselves up for potential major orthopedic issues in the future.
If these aches and pains get treated fully in the short term, there can be little lost time on the field. We all know athletes are chronic under-reporters however. They don’t often tell anyone that their arm hurts. Then minor strains become major tendonitis, fracture, stress fracture, and ligament failure.
A classic example is little leaguer’s elbow. I don’t like the name because it sounds benign. But young kids with elbow pain from throwing have a real risk of ligament tears, growth plate disruptions, and stress fracture if they continue to throw with pain and fatigue. The data is clear. I have seen many of these cases end up in the operating room. Simple conservative treatment, including physical therapy, can provide complete relief, often quickly since kids can heal fast. Rest is important but many will not report pain for fear of being “shut down.” They need to decrease local pain and then help with arm mechanics including shoulder strengthening, proper flexibility, posture improvements, throwing form evaluation (video, coach), core/leg stabilization, and a smart return to throw program.
I want kids on the field. It is not my job to tell people to do less. But we need to protect the kids above all else. We want them to be healthy adults as well when their playing days are over. Get advice from a physical therapist that specializes in sports. See them if there is any pain. Rest and meds can be important, but there reasons why the pain started initially. Also, talk to them about preventing these injuries in the first place. We talk to player, parents, and coaches all the time. This goes for volleyball, swimming, baseball, tennis, and many others.
Pain is a signal to the body. Are we listening???
Kash Eagleton, DPT, SCS
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Board Certified Sports Physical Therapy Specialist