As children grow, they have growth plates within their bones made of cartilage.  These allow the bones to get longer and often help children grow in height.  These growth plates open and close at various points starting in childhood and extending through the early 20’s.  Growth plates are often the weak point of the bone in children and have a tendency to get injured. 

What is Little League Shoulder?

Little League Shoulder is pain over the top of the large arm bone (the humerus)—located just below the shoulder.  A growth plate in this area can get inflamed and damaged causing pain.  Children with this condition may have trouble fully raising and lowering their arm due to pain.  They will be sore for a few days after pitching or catching.  This condition is most common in sports involving overhead activities, with baseball pitchers and tennis players being the most common athletes that have Little League Shoulder.  Poor technique in throwing can make this condition more likely.

What will my doctor do?

Usually your doctor will get x-rays of both shoulders to get a better look at the growth plates and compare throwing side to non-throwing side.

How is Little League Shoulder treated?

  • Rest from throwing activity until pain free (can be longer than 3 months)
  • Ice and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories
  • Physical therapy
  • Observation of throwing technique to work on form
  • Slow return to throwing after pain has improved

Can Little League Shoulder be prevented?

USA Baseball has developed guidelines for the amount of pitches a child should throw based upon their age.  Following these guidelines can help prevent a player from throwing too much and lower the risk of injury to the shoulder.  Allowing a child time off from throwing sports throughout the year can also help prevent this condition.

To request an appointment with a physician at St. Louis Children's Hospital, call 314.454.5437 or 800.678.5437 or email us.  For additional resources about Little League Shoulder, contact our Family Resource Center.