SHOREWOOD – Recent Joliet West High School graduate Anthony DiNardo knows all about the effects repetitive throws can have on a body.
A baseball and football player for his school and a traveling baseball team, DiNardo dislocated his shoulder during a baseball game on his traveling team during a multigame tournament weekend.
“It wasn’t even that painful,” DiNardo said. “I wasn’t even sure what happened. I got up, and my arm was like stuck over my head. ... I thought it was a muscle spasm or something.”
An MRI showed evidence of previous tears in DiNardo’s shoulder ligaments. He said it was suggested the damage was from years of pitching. His options were therapy or surgery. With his football season two months away, he chose rehab and immediately began therapy.
However, his position as quarterback proved to be too much for his recovering throwing arm and DiNardo’s shoulder dislocated once again. This time, it was more serious.
“It was stuck down at my side this time,” DiNardo said. “They put it back in right on the field and put a sling on it.”
DiNardo was taken to the hospital. Playing was out of the question for the rest of the season. Shoulder labrum instability surgery was scheduled two weeks out.
The rest of that fall and winter, all DiNardo wanted was to get his body back in condition for the 2013 baseball season. He planned smart – no travel team and no pitching – only hitting for that season. He worked with his Shorewood physical therapist. It went well, and DiNardo was able to fully throw himself into his senior year football season.
“He told me he wasn’t sure how my shoulder would hold up,” DiNardo said, “but it was important to me.”
DiNardo not only completed that year’s football season, he set the school record for touchdowns and passing yards. He made All Conference SouthWest Suburban Blue his senior year to add to his freshman year all conference listing in baseball.
Yet another labrum instability surgery was needed in January and DiNardo is still in rehabilitation from that one, he said. There will be no baseball this year, although he hopes to return full strength for collegiate sports in a few months, DiNardo added.
When considering sports for children, parents should not encourage yearround participation in the same sport. And they should not overdo a sport during the season, either. That’s the recommendation of the American Sports Medicine Institute.
“The overhead throwing motion [in baseball] is one of the most violent motions in sports,” said Tony Testin, physical therapist with Newsome Physical therapy in Shorewood. “The average internal rotation velocity for an accelerating arm at 85 miles per hour is 7,000 degrees per second. That’s a huge amount of torque that’s put on the joints in the shoulder and elbow.”
The windmill throw of softball is not quite as bad, Testin said, but overhead throwing causes an enormous strain on muscles, joints and especially ligaments.
Testin said he has seen in recent years an increase in the number of elbow injuries in young baseball players, some of which result in surgery and long-lasting physical repercussions. Most of these injuries are do to overuse, he added.
Physical therapist/athletic trainer Kendra Erickson, of Newsome Physical Therapy at Louis Point in Joliet, said many athletes are able to regain their mechanics and come back after an injury, but it’s important for parents to advocate for their young athletes. This will help prevent joint injuries and halt ones that are progressing.
“The big push now is to get kids not to play the same sport yearround,” Erickson said. “It can take a toll on your body. With repetitive stresses, your body’s going to start to break down. Even professional players have an off season. You need some time to recover.”
Erickson said during off seasons, youth athletes can work on their core or participate in a sport that does not overuse the same joints and muscles. Her practice also offers a video analysis program for pitchers, which can show when throwing mechanics may potentially injure a young athlete.
For instance, Erickson said, if an analysis shows the elbow is lower than the shoulder during a throw, a change may be recommended. Erickson said the results are then given to the child’s coach. Identifying problems early can help prevent future injuries, she added.
Parents should make sure coaches don’t push the kids too hard. They should also pay attention to any problems they may see when the child is playing, even if the child doesn’t complain.
“They don’t want to stop,” she said. “So they may not tell you.”