Leaderboard ad

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Tackling Hyperextended Elbow

At some point, almost everyone who plays contact sports, either competitively or in weekend pickup games, will hyperextend their elbows. The list includes team sports like football, basketball, and baseball, along with individual sports like boxing and martial arts. Non-contact sports and activities, such as weightlifting or runners who brace themselves during falls, can also cause this injury.

Many joints, such as the wrist and ankle, have almost 360-degree flexibility. But the elbow does not flex backwards at all, so almost any pressure in that direction will cause a hyperextension or worse.

Because these injuries are so common, they are fairly easy for doctors or trainers to diagnose, and they are also fairly easy to treat, given the proper approach.

Symptoms


Hyperextended elbows always have two things in common: unnatural motion and a popping sound. The motion could be the backwards flex mentioned above, or it could also be too much lateral elbow movement. That popping sound is your humeroulnar joint, the muscle that provides elbow flexibility, separating from either your humerus (upper arm) or ulna (lower arm). Some more noticeable symptoms include:
  • Pain: All sports and fitness injuries cause mild, moderate, or severe discomfort, but the pain associated with elbow hyperextension is a little different. The injured area may not hurt much at all unless you flex or touch your elbow.    
  •  Swelling: Probably as a way of protecting the injured area, the tissue around the wound almost always swells. In addition to swelling all around the elbow, your arm may be stiff, which is another way the body tries to protect itself.
  • Loss of Strength: Other than the popping sound, a limp feeling in your elbow and arm is the most obvious sign of a hyperextension. Many people also experience severe muscle spasms, especially when they try to straighten their arms.

In more severe cases, the skin will become discolored and the elbow may become disfigured, due to poor blood circulation.

Diagnosis

Self-diagnosis is a little iffy, because although the symptoms are quite clear, you will have no idea about the extent of the injury or if there is something else to worry about as well, such as a hairline elbow fracture. A trainer, or even a very experienced teammate, can probably look at the injury, perform a surface examination, and pretty well estimate the extent of the injury, but without diagnostic equipment, further evaluation is impossible.

So, the best thing to do is go to the doctor. A physician has access to MRIs and X-Ray machines that can both accurately diagnose the full extent of the hyperextension and rule out any other injuries.

Treatment

Hyperextended elbows, like many other sports and fitness injuries, hardly ever require surgery and may not even require physical therapy. To speed recovery, follow this protocol:
  • Immobilization: Injured elbows are very vulnerable to reinjury, so use an elbow brace to fully immobilize the joint. Once the joint starts healing, another kind of brace that partially immobilizes the area may be a good idea. 
  • Compression: The elbow brace should also be rather tight to limit swelling. Essentially, the brace should feel like a tightly-wrapped ACE bandage.
  • Ice: Fifteen to twenty minutes of cold therapy per day will significantly reduce inflammation and also relieve pain. Your ice pack should remain freezer cold for the entire icing period.
  • Elevation: To further reduce swelling, use pillows to elevate the injured elbow above your heart for as long as possible.

There are also a number of elbow exercises you can use to both hasten recovery and also strengthen the joint to help prevent re-injury.

Prognosis

Most people who follow this treatment plan see significant improvement after about two weeks, and complete healing after about another two weeks.

Do not return to sports activity until the injury is 100 percent healed, which means no pain whatsoever and full range of motion without any discomfort. Furthermore, the formerly injured elbow should look exactly like the uninjured one. If you have any questions, consult a doctor or trainer.

Hyperextended elbows happen a lot, and with a little planning and action, they do not have to keep you sidelined for very long.

This is a guest blog entry.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your comments are welcome.