Sports Injuries of the Elbow
Sport by its very nature introduces lots of stresses and demands on the body and whilst excellent to maintain health and fitness, can result in injury or damage. There are a number of common problems associated with the elbows, which are explained briefly below:
Tennis elbow is a very common diagnosis. In athletes and heavy manual workers a number of other elbow injuries can appear like Tennis Elbow and need an experienced clinician to differentiate them from Tennis Elbow. Tennis Elbow typically causes pain over the bony prominence on the outer side of the elbow. It is not only seen in racquet sports, but any sport where repetitive twisting and extension of the wrist against resistance is required. The treatment involves a combination of physiotherapy and injections. Surgery is sometimes required. More importantly, the cause of the Tennis Elbow should be found and treated (e.g. too small a racquet grip).
Golfer's Elbow is identical to Tennis Elbow, but occurs on the inner side of the elbow. The treatment is similar.
Locking and/or painful clicking of the elbow joint is usually due to 'loose bodies' or arthritis of the elbow. The loose bodies are usually bits of the cartilage lining of the joint which break off and float in the joint. In certain positions they can cause the joint to click or lock. Sometimes they may only cause pain, similar to tennis elbow. An x-ray or scan may be required to tell the difference. Loose bodies can usually be removed by arthroscopic surgery.
Rupture of the biceps are usually seen in heavy lifting athletes and workers, particularly bodybuilders and strength athletes.
Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD) generally occurs in adolescents, with pain and sometimes clicking of the elbow.
Sports which involve repetitive hyperextension of the elbow, such as tennis and boxing can lead to posterior impingement. This presents as pain over the back (posterior) of the elbow on straightening the elbow. There may be locking or clicking.
Dislocations of the elbow need to be reduced urgently. If there is still instability and/or fractures these need to be treated early to prevent long-term problems. The range of injuries in the elbow associated with a dislocation is complex and requires expert management.