Symmetry Blog

Injury of the week - Dislocated Elbow

Symmetry Physio - Thursday, July 27, 2017

Tarvis Varco was knocked unconscious and suffered a dislocated elbow as result of the fall.

Injury of the week - Dislocated Elbow

Whilst Collingwood produced an upset win over the weekend, they had their fair share of injuries. Of particular interest, was Travis Varco who was knocked unconscious after a courageous attempt to spoil, but also suffered a dislocated elbow as a result of the fall. This week we take a look at elbow dislocations.

A dislocated elbow means that the bones of the forearm (radius and ulna) become separated from their connecting joint surface to the bone of the upper arm (the humerus). The bones of the forearm usually move backwards underneath the bottom of the humerus (see image). The elbow is an incredibly stable joint and usually, requires quite a bit of force to dislocate. In sport, this is usually due to a heavy fall onto an outstretched arm. Elbow dislocations are also quite common in young children as the ligaments surrounding the joint are not fully developed making it easier for the bones to separate.

The elbow is often put back into place fairly easily by a trained medical professional, often with a loud clunk. If this is not possible, the athlete will be sent to the hospital relocation. The most common complication to occur with an elbow dislocation is a fracture of the coronoid process or radical head of the forearm bones. The forceful separation of the joint can cause bone in bone contact as the dislocation occurs and a fracture can result. A more serious complication is disruption of the blood vessel and/or nerve supply to the forearm.

After a dislocation occurs and the joint is relocated, a physiotherapist or member of the medical team should send the injured athlete/person for an x-ray to check for fractures. Testing of the ligaments around the elbow joint should be done because when a joint is dislocated, these ligaments are stretched forcefully and tears or rupture can result causing ongoing instability of the joint.

Although the injury itself is very painful and looks serious, if there are no complications resulting from the dislocation, athletes can return to sport with taping in as little as two to three weeks. If there is ligament damage or a fracture occurs then you will need the help of a physiotherapist to regain strength and stability of the elbow following a period of rest and full recovery will take much longer.

The Team at Symmetry Physiotherapy.


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