- Preventing and Treating Elbow Joint Injuries in Athletes
Preventing and Treating Elbow Joint Injuries in Athletes
When an athlete in a ball-throwing sport such as baseball throws a ball in a sharp overhead motion, a ligament in the elbow joint called the ulnar collateral ligament undergoes a proportionally sharp degree of stress. This ligament connects the humerus, the large singular bone in the upper arm, to the ulna, the lower of the two bones occupying the lower arm. If this ligament gets damaged, the athlete will typically experience pain in his or her inner elbow and be unable to throw a ball through the air anywhere near as fast or forcefully.
Physicians recommend a variety of preventative measures for athletes to follow in order to reduce the risk that a given overhead throw will cause an ulnar ligament injury. The athlete should practice more straightforward throws during his or her training before regularly hurling balls with greater force. More importantly, the athlete should be restricted from making too many overhead throwing motions for his or her age, and there should be at least two, three, or four consecutive months throughout a year during which the dominant arm is not used for throwing at all.
If an ulnar ligament injury is believed to have happened, a physician who specializes in injuries caused by athletic practices will apply X-ray imaging and magnetic resonance imaging to diagnose the problem. From there, if the issue warrants a surgical treatment, the patient will undergo an operative procedure in which the ligament will be reconstructed with a tendon graft, if not recreated entirely. The graft should enable the athlete to make another overhead motion without experiencing pain, though generally the athlete will have to wait an entire year before formally resuming active participation in his or her sport.
The aforementioned procedure applies to fairly serious ligament injuries that can occur during an intensive sporting activity, but if the ligament is merely strained or partially torn, treatment will generally avoid tendon repair surgery and allow the athlete to resume playing after a shorter stretch of time spent recuperating.