Elbow fracture

An elbow fracture is a break involving any of the three arm bones that work together to form the elbow joint. Such fractures may occur as the result of a blunt force striking the elbow during athletics or from a fall onto the elbow. The injury is common to many sports, particularly contact sports such as football. Fractures may be classified as distal humeral fractures, radial fractures and ulnar fractures. Fractures of the radial head are the most common.

Cause of injury

Falling directly onto the elbow. Direct trauma to the elbow. Severe torsion of the elbow beyond its normal range of motion.

Signs and symptoms

Swelling and pain in the region of the elbow. Deformity of the elbow due to bone fracture. Loss of arm mobility.

Complications if left unattended 

Without treatment, fractured bones of the elbow can fail to heal properly, and at times fuse in misalignment. This can lead to long term deficit in range of motion and strength, increased vulnerability to re-injury and deformity of the joint.

Immediate treatment 

Apply ice immediately to the swollen area. Immobilize the arm in a splint or sling before seeking emergency help.

Rehabilitation and prevention 

Elbow fractures occur from sudden, accidental trauma and are often difficult to prevent. Avoiding athletics at periods of extreme fatigue and protection of the elbow with padding during athletics are both prudent.

Additionally, consuming calcium and performing bone strengthening exercises  may help avoid fractures.

Long-term prognosis

Long-term prospects for elbow fractures vary depending on the nature and severity of the fracture as well as the age and medical history of the injured athlete. Infections, stiffening of the elbow joint, arthritis, non-union or malfunction of bone are possible. In the case of less severe elbow fractures, full recovery may be expected, though the healing process often requires several months.

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