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Youth Baseball Injuries Becoming More Common
Date:3/10/2010

Stretching, rest can ease elbow, shoulder pain that plagues many young players, studies show

WEDNESDAY, March 10 (HealthDay News) -- In the coming weeks, millions of American children will dust off their bats and gloves and head out to the baseball field.

But the season may end before it's over for many if they don't take steps to prevent the arm injuries that seem to be striking ever younger players, experts say.

New research indicates arm pain among young athletes is on the rise, with one study showing a five-fold increase in serious shoulder and elbow injuries among youth baseball and softball players since 2000.

A study of 152 players aged 8 to 12 by Japanese researchers found that 25 percent complained of elbow pain. Of those, 68 percent had limited range of motion or tenderness of the elbow, while nearly 85 percent had osteochondral lesions, or a tear or fracture of the cartilage around the elbow.

More than half of those with injuries were pitchers, 27 percent were catchers and the rest played other positions, according to the study to be presented Wednesday at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons annual meeting, in New Orleans.

"It's a growing problem," said Dr. Charles Metzger, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in the upper extremities in Houston who was to present his own research at the meeting. "It's very common for younger and younger players to come in with elbow and shoulder pain and miss playing games as a result."

Reasons for the rise in arm injuries include children specializing in a single sport, or even position, at younger and younger ages, leaving them more prone to overuse injuries, said Dr. Michael Schafer, an academy spokesman who spent 23 years as a team orthopedic surgeon for the Chicago Cubs.

Young athletes also play more months out of the year than they used to, said Metzger. In his survey of 1,261 male U.S. players aged 7 to 15, the avera
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