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Overhead / Throwing Athlete Injuries

An athlete uses an overhand throw to achieve greater speed and distance. Repeated throwing in sports such as baseball and basketball can place a lot of stress on the joints of the arm, and lead to weakening and ultimately, injury to the structures in the elbow. These overuse injuries may include:

  • Inflammation or tears of the ulnar collateral ligaments (supportive tissue that support the elbow joint)
  • Inflammation of the flexor tendons (tissue connecting muscles of the forearm to the upper arm bone) at the inner side of the elbow
  • Wearing of cartilage (spongy protective tissue lining bones in a joint) over the olecranon (pointed elbow bone) and development of abnormal bony growths (bone spurs)
  • Tiny cracks (stress fractures) of the olecranon
  • Irritation of the ulnar nerve

Throwing injuries can produce pain, numbness, tingling and reduction in the throwing velocity. When you present with symptoms of a throwing injury, your doctor will review your medical history, discuss your athletic activities and perform a thorough physical examination to examine the strength, range of motion, and stability of your elbow. Imaging tests (X-ray, MRI and CT scans) may be ordered to confirm the diagnosis.

Your doctor may suggest a conservative approach to treatment such as rest, ice application, physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, and a modification of activity and throwing technique. If symptoms remain uncontrolled surgery may be performed to repair the injured tissues either through an open surgery or a less invasive technique (arthroscopy) where a camera and instruments are inserted through a narrow tube. Surgery may be performed to reconstruct the ulnar collateral ligament and relocate the ulnar nerve to the front of the elbow.

  • American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
  • American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
  • AANA: Arthroscopy Association of North America
  • Louisiana Orthopaedic Association
  • North Oaks Health System