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Don’t overlook kids’ elbow pain during baseball season, new research says

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Young baseball players may be especially vulnerable to elbow pain and injuries, results of a recent study suggest.

Researchers at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia looked at MRI exams from 130 baseball players 18 or younger who were being evaluated for elbow pain. Of them, 45 were considered “skeletally immature,” meaning they still had growth plates – or areas of new bone growth that are weaker than solid bone.

The most common ailments among this subgroup: fluid build-up around the joint, stress injuries near the growth plate, fractures and osteochondritis dissecans lesions, “where a piece of bone and the overlying cartilage is injured and can detach, leading to reduced range of motion and risk for premature osteoarthritis in adulthood,” the Radiological Society of North America says. “The repetitive motion and force of throwing a baseball places a large amount of stress on the growing bones, joints and muscles of the elbows of baseball players.”

The findings are critical not only to doctors, “but also to parents and team coaches, all of whom provide crucial support for these children,” said study co-author Theodore J. Ganley, director of the Sports Medicine and Performance Center in the Division of Orthopaedics at CHOP. “It is important to be aware of these findings in order to ensure that symptoms of pain are not overlooked during the baseball season.”

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