Dr. Hany Elrashidy, an orthopedic surgeon at Northwestern Medicine's Glenview Outpatient Center, said overuse injuries develop slowly from repetitive stress on tendons, muscles, bones or joints.
"These injuries are often hard to recognize because athletes dismiss the early signs as minor aches and pains, but when not treated properly overuse injuries run the risk of benching young athletes as well as causing long term damage and diminished quality of life," Elrashidy said in a statement.
Extensive throwing by a young athlete can damage the growth plates in the arm leading to a condition called Little Leaguer's elbow or shoulder. This injury is caused when repetitive pitching creates excessive tension on the tendons and ligaments of the elbow or shoulder.
If not treated, the increased strain can stress the soft tissue attachments to the bone, leading to abnormalities at the growth plate, small tears of ligaments, and even bony remodeling, Elrashidy said.
"If an athlete feels pain on the inside of the elbow, this can be a sign of little league elbow," Elrashidy said. "If there is any difficulty executing any of the phases of normal throwing or symptoms such as locking or instability, the player should immediately discontinue activity and consult a physician."