I wanted to write a small article addressing ulnar nerve issues in baseball pitchers. The ulnar nerve runs from the neck to in between the two bones on the inside part of your elbow called the cubital tunnel then to the ring and pinky fingers. The cubital tunnel is a passageway created by the bones and tissue in the surrounding areas. At times the ulnar nerve can rub against the medial epicondyle which is part of a bone that includes the cubital tunnel and causes irritation. If the ulnar nerve gets irritated repeatedly then the ulnar nerve can get inflamed which can cause muscle weakness and loss of feeling.
When a baseball pitcher experiences pain in their ulnar nerve it is typically from inflammation of the ulnar nerve in between the two bones of your inner elbow. The inflammation will cause pinching of that nerve in the area of the two bones of the inner elbow. That pain is usually a dull pain and is more of a discomfort than a hurting or sharp pain. Pain and discomfort at a more advanced stage when not treated with rest and ice will shoot and radiate down the forearm and to the ring and pinky fingers. If this happens over an extended period of time that player should consider seeing an elbow specialist and probably consider an ulnar nerve transposition surgery in which they move your ulnar nerve out of the bone groove where it can’t be pinched. The surgery is very easy for a pitcher to recover from. The main issue is the incision healing and muscle atrophy after surgery.
The causes of ulnar nerve pain can be multiple things. The main being over use and abuse in overhand throwing athletes especially if they play baseball year round or play multiple sports. I personally recommend pitchers rest (no throwing) for at least 2-3 months each year. The second cause is more uncommon but still can play a significant part especially when coupled with overuse is athletes who sleep on their stomach in which puts a constant pressure on their ulnar nerve. Most times these athletes will wake up to their arm or ring/pinky fingers being numb. This is caused by laying directly on the nerve a blocking it which can lead to further issues especially if this is happening on a nightly basis.
Treatment for ulnar nerve issues in pitchers is rest, ice and over the counter anti-inflammatory medicines. Remember you cannot damage the nerve only cause pain and discomfort. You will notice a dull pain in the elbow and tingly ring/pinky fingers. Pitchers will also notice a drop in velocity because the body is naturally protecting what is in pain.
If you have any questions please comment below. Till next time.