MADERA, Calif. (KFSN) --More Valley kids are ending up at Valley Children's Hospital with injuries that are usually seen in adult athletes. Repetitive-use injuries are taking more children out of the game because they play one sport all year.
Tossing a ball and practicing his catches, is like reuniting with a familiar friend for Elijah Torrez of Mendota. The 14-year-old and his dad, Anthony, spend a few minutes stretching out the arm and elbow that underwent surgery five months ago at Valley Children's Hospital in Madera.
Before his sports-interrupting injury, Elijah was playing for his school baseball team, plus four other travel and club teams. But while he was pitching with one of those teams in a world series game in San Diego. "I just heard it pop, I knew something was wrong," said Elijah.
That pop was a serious injury to the bone in Elijah's elbow. "It was a little painful at first, then it started getting better and better.
The same dedication Elijah puts into sports, he's now putting into physical therapy to get back in the game. "He's a very competitive boy-- his drive is unbelievable," said Anthony Torrez, Elijah's father.
Anthony believes that drive pushed his son through the pain in his elbow until it gave out. "They always want to say the parents push, but sometimes it's the kid. He's just competitive. I'm the one saying, hey, slow down, slow down, get better."
Whether it's the competitiveness of the kid or the parent, pediatric orthopedic surgeon Dr. Kerry Loveland said, Valley Children's is seeing a worrisome spike in sports-related injuries. "They play a single sport all year round and they're fatiguing their bodies."
Dr. Loveland said the rise of travel teams and the lure of a potential scholarship, motivates many families to focus on one sport for their child. "If you love playing baseball, that's great. But play basketball. It's different stresses on your body so you're not doing the same thing to the same joints, over, and over, and over."
Dr. Loveland explains Elijah's over-use injury with the teen's X-rays. Elijah's bone pulled off the growth plate in his elbow. The process to repair it is similar to the "Tommy John" surgery in an adult, named after the famed pitcher. He stressed his for so long after pulling it off, it created a bunch of bone
A titanium screw is now in Elijah's elbow, stabilizing it so well he'll likely recover to his full pitching strength and even better after physical therapy. But Dr. Loveland doesn't want to see more cases like Elijah's.
The doctor's recommendation to prevent injuries is often not what parents, coaches, and kids want to hear: rest from playing. "You need an off-season at the very least. If there's nothing else you're really interested in doing, then take an offseason and just be a kid," said Dr. Loveland. "I always tell the families, don't think of this as missing your sport, think of it as investing in your future to get better."
Elijah wants that future in baseball.
Elijah and his parents now know, he has to rest and not re-injure his body to be ready if that one-in-a-million shot at the majors, comes around.