Acute Elbow Injuries
Acute elbow injuries are of sudden onset and caused by a sudden impact or trauma. They include bone fractures, elbow dislocations, ligament sprains and tendon ruptures and are usually caused by a fall onto the arm or elbow or a collision in contact sports.
A radial head fracture is a break to the radius bone in the forearm just below the elbow joint and usually occurs as a result of a fall onto an outstretched hand. This elbow injury causes instant pain to the joint which would make it very hard to move the arm. There are different grades of this injury which affects how it is treated, read more on this below.
The medial collateral ligament (MCL) of the elbow is situated on the inner elbow and helps to provide stability to the joint. Damage to this ligament can occur from an impact injury or from repetitive oversuse, for example throwing with poor technique. Symptoms can include inside elbow pain and tenderness, read below for more information on the symptoms, causes and treatments.
The ulnar nerve runs down the inside of the elbow. If you knock the inside of the elbow, you can hit the ulnar nerve (or funny bone) which causes a numbness or tingling down the forearm into the fourth and fifth fingers. When this nerve becomes trapped or damaged through repetitive strain or a direct impact, it creates this sensation and can cause elbow pain.
A bruised elbow or elbow contusion usually occurs as a result of a fall or impact to the elbow. The elbow will appear bruised and will be tender to touch. Rest, ice and compression can usually treat this elbow injury, but it should be monitored for signs of more serious damage.
Avulsion fracture of the medial epicondyle is when the tendon comes away from the bone and can take part of the bone with it. This elbow injury is more common in children with symptoms similar to a sprain. These can include elbow pain, swelling and reduced ability to move the arm. Read more on avulsion fractures, their symptoms and how to treat them.
An elbow hyperextension injury occurs when the elbow is bent back the wrong way. This over-straightening causes damage to the ligaments and structures of the elbow. Like several elbow injuries, this often occurs in contact sports like rugby, and causes instant pain. Ice, compression and taping are some of the ways this injury can be treated.
An elbow fracture is a break in one of the bones which form the elbow joint. There are three bones which could be broken: the Humerus (upper arm bone), Ulna and Radius (two forearm bones). This elbow injury can be caused by a fall or a hard impact, and especially because there can be further potential complications, medical assistance should be sought immediately.
Elbow dislocations are the second most common dislocations in adults, behind the shoulder. The elbow is a very stable joint and so it requires a lot of force to dislocate it. Severe pain and obvious deformity are the common symptoms for this elbow injury, which is normally caused by a fall or direct impact. Read an explanation of elbow dislocations, treatments and how to rehabilitate after the injury.