Elbow injuries in active people
The Palm Beach Post’s “Ask the Expert” column features David W. Altchek, MD, sports medicine surgeon and founding medical director of HSS Florida, discussing different types and treatment of elbow injuries in active adults.
Dr. Altchek explained elbow injuries are categorized into three problem areas: tendon injuries, bony problems and ligament injuries. Tennis elbow is an injury to the extensor group tendon, originating at the outer part of the elbow extending through the forearm. Discomfort arises when extending the wrist against resistance and resolves in two to 12 months. Treatment involves ice, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) and avoiding aggravating activities.
Elbows can develop “bone spurs” as a result of degeneration from osteoarthritis. In younger individuals, it can result from the repetitive overload of throwing or racquet sports. Most spurs occur in the back of the elbow, and limit ability to extend the elbow fully. Spurs can be easily removed with minor arthroscopic surgery.
According to Dr. Altchek, the most common elbow ligament injury is the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) on the inside of the elbow. Causes include trauma, or aggressive throwing, as seen in baseball pitchers. In athletes, this usually requires Tommy John surgery. Injuries also occur at the outside of the elbow, generally because of trauma or degeneration from tennis elbow. This injury can create significant disability and requires surgery.
This article appeared in the print edition on February 21, 2021.