Elbow pain is not uncommon, especially among certain kinds of athletes. Captain Laydon, can you tell us about some common elbow injuries?
Well, Major Spencer, one of the most common causes of elbow pain is tendinitis, which is an inflammation or injury to the tendons that attach muscle to bone. Tendinitis of the elbow is usually related to overuse and is common in sporting activities such as tennis, golf, or bowling. In fact, a particular kind of tendinitis called lateral epicondylitis, is often referred to as “tennis elbow” because it’s so closely associated with that sport. Lateral epicondylitis most commonly affects the extensor carpi radialis brevis, or ECRB, tendon.
Tendinosis is a degenerative change in the tendon tissue and is the natural progression from tendinitis. As with all overuse injuries, the most important component of treatment is to stop the overuse activity, if possible, and rest the area.
Other sports that require overhand throwing, such as baseball, can also cause injury to the ligaments and tendons in the elbow. For example, repeated overhand throwing can put undue stress on the ulnar collateral ligament, or UCL. A UCL injury can range from minor damage and inflammation to a complete tear of the ligament. Repetitive overhand throwing can also cause flexor tendinitis, or inflammation of the flexor/pronator tendons where they attach to the humerus on the inner side of the elbow.
Injury affecting the bones of the elbow can result from repeated overhand throwing as well. Valgus extension overload, or VEO, is a condition in which the protective cartilage on the olecranon is worn away and abnormal overgrowth of bones, called bone spurs or osteophytes, develop. An olecranon stress fracture is another throwing injury. A stress fracture is an overuse injury in which the body cannot repair microscopic damage to the bone as quickly as it is induced, leading to painful, weakened bone.
The ulnar nerve is also susceptible to injury from repetitive overhand throwing. The nerve may slip out of place and cause a painful snapping. In other cases, the ulnar nerve may be compressed. When the ulnar nerve slips out of place or becomes compressed, it leads to a condition called ulnar neuritis and neuropathy.