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 you suspect an elbow ligament sprain in children then always consider it might be an avulsion sprain/fracture.
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 because their bones have not fully formed and therfore hardened. Their muscles develop in advance of their bones making them more susceptible to overuse injuries, including avulsion fractures.
Treatment is often the same for an avulsion fracture or just an elbow ligament sprain. Apply immediate first aid of cold therapy and compression.
However, this depends on the severity of the fracture and whether a bone fragment displaces or not.
Children are more likely to be offered alternative treatment for an avulsion fracture. This is because long term, it may affect their skeletal growth. 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.