Why does my elbow hurt when throwing?

A common elbow overuse injury of throwing athletes (pitchers, quarterbacks, racquetball players, squash players, etc.) is an ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) sprain or tear. The UCL resists the stress at the elbow when performing throwing activities, and if injured will cause pain and possibly instability of the inner (medial) elbow. If you think that you may have a UCL sprain you should contact a physician or physical therapist for the best course of treatment.

There can be many different reasons why your elbow hurts while throwing.  First we must take a look at where it is hurting and when it is hurting during your throwing motion to truly get a full understanding of what is happening.  One of the most common ailments is a sprain to the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) on the inner or medial aspect of the elbow.  This can range from a mild sprain requiring only rehabilitation to a severe sprain which would require surgery.  Other inner elbow or medial elbow pain can be associated to a muscular strain to the flexor mass, ulnar nerve irritation, “bone chips” or “bone spurs.”  Lateral or outer elbow soreness can be muscular in nature to “bone chips or spurs.”  One word of note, if you are an adolescent one must be concerned with a growth plate injury.  All of the ailments I noted above must be evaluated and diagnosed by a physician. 

After being evaluated by your physician I would recommend working with a certified athletic trainer or physical therapist to determine if you have any other weakness in your shoulder or core.  Often times elbow pain while throwing is associated with a decrease in strength or flexibility of the shoulder or core.

My final recommendation is to seek the advice of a pitching coach, certified athletic trainer that works with an overhead sport or an experienced coach to review your mechanics.  Often times a slight adjustment to your throwing mechanics can take a lot of pressure off your elbow and alleviate your pain and prevent any further injury.

Once you return to throwing a good warm-up is key.  Start with warming up your shoulder and elbow with a hot pack or simply with some low resistance high repetition tubing exercises.  Next perform a good stretch to the elbow and shoulder to correct any discrepancies.  Finally ease back into throwing, focus on your mechanics and take it easy until you build your strength back.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.