Will my career as a baseball pitcher put me at risk for having elbow problems?

Compared to players in other positions and other types of sports, baseball pitchers have a greater chance for an elbow injury. This relates to the remarkably high forces on the elbow joint during the pitch. The primary diagnosis in pitchers is bone spurs along the inside edge of the olecranon bone, the main bump on bottom of the elbow. Forceful straightening of the elbow during the pitch sometimes brings the bones of the elbow into contact. Repeated contact eventually causes bone spurs to develop where this contact occurs.

The second most common condition affects the ulnar collateral ligament. This ligament crosses the inside edge of the elbow. It normally keeps the elbow from bending out to the side. Pitching puts tremendous strain on the elbow in this awkward angle. To visualize this angle, straighten your arm with your palm up. Now try to make your forearm angle sideways where it meets the elbow joint. In a healthy elbow, the ulnar collateral ligament makes this action nearly impossible.

However, the repetition of pitching compounds the strain on this ligament. This can lead to problems of overuse, eventually allowing the elbow to be strained into this awkward outward position. Talk to your trainer or coach to learn ways to prevent, recognize, and treat these conditions.