An elbow avulsion fracture occurs when a tendon or ligament tears, pulling a small fragment of bone away with it. It is more common in children and usually occurs on the inside of the elbow. Here we explain the symptoms, causes, and treatment for elbow avulsion fractures.
Avulsion fracture symptoms
Symptoms of an avulsion fracture are very similar to a medial elbow ligament sprain. It is very difficult to tell the difference without an X-ray or MRI scan.
- There will be pain immediately after the injury occurs.
- Immediate swelling.
- Bruising may develop later.
- You will most likely have difficulty moving your elbow and gripping things.
If an elbow ligament sprain is suspected in children then an avulsion sprain/fracture should be considered.
What is an avulsion fracture?
An avulsion fracture occurs when a tendon or ligament tears, pulling a small piece of bone with it. Avulsion fractures can occur anywhere in the body, especially the elbow, ankle, front of the hip and ischial tuberosity under the buttocks.
An elbow avulsion fracture often occurs on the inside of the elbow and is throwing related. Large forces go through the elbow, especially if you have poor technique. As a result, the ligaments stretch, tear and sometimes a small fragment of bone can come away also.
Children are, particularly at high risk. The main reason is because their bones are not fully formed and hardened. Their muscles can develop in advance of their bones making them more susceptible to overuse injuries, including avulsion fractures.
However, it may depend on the severity of the fracture and whether the fragment is displaced or not.
Children are also more likely to be offered an alternative treatment for an avulsion fracture as long term, their skeletal growth could be affected.
More severe avulsion fractures or fractures in children may require casting for 6-8 weeks to allow the bone to heal.
Following this, a period of rehabilitation will be required to ensure that full strength and mobility are regained.