Mandy Mitchell

'The pain is in my elbow'

Posted July 23, 2014


I spent a lot of time researching my story about overuse injuries in sports. I talked to doctors, coaches and former players, and I learned a lot. Here are three important things I could not fit into the TV story.

Injuries do not make you a "wimp"

Brandon Young is a physical therapist who works with many young people suffering with arm injuries. He got into the business after blowing his arm at an early age.

"It's heartbreaking," said Young. You think you're a major league prospect, and the attention you were getting is gone."

Young said his story should be a lesson to every parent who has a child playing sports.

"I told my parents that I had elbow pain, and it was the old-school mentality: 'No, you don't have elbow pain, it's in your head,'" he said. "I told them over and over the pain is not in my head, it's in my elbow." And he was right. Young eventually needed Tommy John surgery to fix his arm, and his career playing baseball was over.

Tommy John surgery will not make you a better pitcher

The facts are, only 80 percent of pitchers who have Tommy John surgery can actually regain the velocity they had before they tore the ligament. That's something Duke orthopedic surgeon Grant Garrigues has to explain to his patients all of the time.

"I have had patients come to me with completely normal ligaments asking for the surgery," he said. "There is a huge misconception. People somehow think the surgery will make you throw faster or that you need it to get to the next level of baseball, and the data is extremely clear on that. It will not make you throw harder."

"I pitched every game."

I asked every expert why I constantly hear fathers say, "When I was his age, I pitched every game and didn't get hurt." The answer lies in variety. Kids these days are focusing in on one sport very early in life while most people, even 15 years ago, played sports by seasons.

"I would tell that father, ‘When you played, were you on those traveling teams or were you playing different sports in the offseason?’" Garrigues said. "Baseball has really changed. It's so competitive now."


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  • natsfan1965 Jul 29, 2014

    Kids today are pitching entirely too much at too young of an age. Kids also are being taught how and encouraged to throw curve ball and sliders at way too young of an age. I coached baseball, working with pitchers for a lot of years. I never allowed a kid to throw a curve ball before age 13, and even then had a strict limit on the number they could throw in a game. I called all of the pitches from the dugout and limited them to 3 per game. If a pitcher threw one when it wasn't called, they were off the mound. Today I see them as young as 10 throwing them. Looking back and after reading the opinions of many doctor's, I regret allowing even 13-15 year olds throw them. It puts tremendous strain on young arms that are not ready to handle it

  • Jeanne Gunn Jul 27, 2014
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    A friend of mine tried it a few years ago; unfortunately, it didn't help and she ended up having surgery, but it may be worth a try, and at the very least is worth looking into.

    BTW: I agree with what you said about coaches - kids tend to listen to them more than parents, and if the coach pushes a child despite the danger of being injured, that's a problem.

  • uBnice Jul 25, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Looked it up. Interesting. I would not consider it for a youth, but for my aging, sports-damaged body, I may inquire with my physician.

    Thank you.

  • Alex25 Jul 25, 2014

    try "PRP" ....platelet rich plasma. even vets are doing this now in dogs.

  • uBnice Jul 24, 2014

    View quoted thread

    I agree.

    Another part of the problem is coaches. I have had to fight with my child because a coach has felt he could still play/practice when injured and even under doctor's orders. Coaches have a lot of influence on kids, both positive and negative.

    I hope Ms Mitchell will do some additional pieces on this topic to show how it plays out for many sports for both males and females.

  • Jeanne Gunn Jul 24, 2014
    user avatar

    Great piece, Mandy. I hope this opens the eyes of parents who push their kids and think more practice is better, and I hope parents listen to their kids when they say they're in pain.

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