> Pitching > Growth Plate Fracture is Bad Thing

A Growth Plate Fracture
Is A Bad Thing


I was on ASMI's web site last night and came across a thread entitled Uh oh, my 11 year old son's elbow hurts. In it a father of an 10 year-old baseball pitcher said...

Good news...for now. Took my son to see the doctor today and after an exam and look at x-rays (of both elbows to compare) the doctor believes it could be growth plate related; maybe a stress fracture in the growth plate. We go back in a few weeks and if the pain persists they will do an MRI. So, for now, he's in a sling for a couple of weeks and then we go back to see the doctor again on October 6th. I'll post an update after the next visit.

This makes me feel a lot better, especially since I've always monitored him pretty closely and don't think he's ever over thrown or suffered from arm fatigue. However, he did do something, so we'll have to work to prevent it from happening again (or something more serious) in the future.

I tried to explain to the dad what was going on and he replied...

I am no doctor and don't know much about this stuff, which is why I looked for information and suggestions here. Obviously any problem or injury is not a good thing, but wouldn't you agree that a growth plate issue is less serious than a UCL/MCL injury?

Believe me, I'm not celebrating that he has a growth plate injury, but believe it's not as bad as I originally thought. I'm just looking for ways to prevent injury in the future.

As I told the dad, a growth plate injury is just as bad as a Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL) injury because they are basically the same injury, or they at least have the same root cause.
     To understand this, you have to understand the anatomy of the elbow. The UCL attaches to the Medial Epicondyle (the bony bump on the inside of the elbow) of the Humerus and the Coronoid Process of the Ulna.

In a pre-pubescent child (e.g. under 16 or so for boys), the Medial Epicondyle (ME) is attached to the Humerus by a growth plate, or area of soft tissue. In a child with an open ME growth plate, the growth plate is weaker than the UCL. As a result, too much strain on the elbow — due to overuse or throwing supinated pitches like the slider — will create problems with the growth plate rather than the UCL (because a chain is only as strong as its weakest link). Once the ME growth plate closes at puberty, then the UCL becomes the weakest link in the chain and pitchers who put too much strain on their ME/UCL complex end up requiring Tommy John surgery.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that an injury to the growth plate of the Medial Epicondyle and an injury to the Ulnar Collateral Ligament are really the same basic injury because they share the same root cause.
     The only way to solve the problem of a ME growth plate strain or fracture in a pre-pubescent pitcher is to limit how much they throw so that they do not experience an overuse injury. The only way to solve the problem of a UCL strain or rupture in an adult pitcher is to learn to pronate all of their pitches, especially the slider and the cut fastball.
     In either case, what you have to do is reduce the strain on the Medial Epicondyle and the Ulnar Collateral Ligament.

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