Sports Injuries of the Elbow in Children and Teens

Most elbow injuries in children occur during activities like sports and play, or are the result of accidents and falls. The risk of injury is greater for those who participate in contact sports such as football, soccer, wrestling.

Also, injuries risk is higher for those who engage in snowboarding, skateboarding, hockey, skiing, biking, or in-line skating. When an injury occurs in a child or teen, it can affect the growing end of the long bones of the arm called the growth plate. These types of injuries always need to be evaluated by an orthopedic specialist.

“Little Leaguer’s Elbow”

This condition occurs when the athlete throws repetitively. Little leaguer’s elbow is called medial apophysitis by doctors and it occurs when throwing creates an excessively strong pull on the ligaments and tendons of the elbow. The athlete will feel pain along the knobby bump on the inside of the elbow. If this condition becomes aggravated it can be serious as excessive, repeated pulling can tear tendons and ligaments away from the bone. This tearing could also pull tiny bone fragments away from their structure and disrupt normal bone growth resulting in a deformity of the elbow. If you think your child has this condition, contact our orthopedic specialists for an appointment immediately.

Osteochondritis Dissecans

Osteochondritis dissecans is also caused by excessive throwing but it is a less common condition. This injury results in pain on the outside of the elbow. In young athletes, the muscles of the elbow are pulled and then pushed to the other side during throwing and as the elbow is compressed, the joint smashes immature bones together. This can loosen fragments of cartilage and bone and result in osteochondritis dissecans. This condition should be evaluated by an orthopedic specialist immediately to prevent further damage to the elbow joint.

“Popeye Elbow”

Popeye elbow, or swelling on the back of the elbow is called olecranon bursitis by doctors, and it involves inflammation of the small sacs of fluid (bursae) that help the joint to move smoothly. This type of condition is called Popeye elbow because of the bump that develops at the back of the elbow looks like the cartoon character’s elbow. The cause of this in children and young athletes is usually a sudden blow to the elbow that results in bleeding and fluid buildup. Olecrenon bursitis can also be caused by inflammation or inflammatory conditions as well. If you suspect your child has this condition, contact our orthopedic specialists for an appointment.

“Tennis Elbow”

Tennis elbow, called lateral epicondylitis by doctors, is a condition where there is tendon damage usually occurring in patients aged 30-50 from repetitive use and tendon deterioration. When the tendons are damaged this leads to pain or soreness around the outside part of the elbow called the lateral epicondyle. Tennis elbow is the result of overuse from repeated hand and wrist movements that occur when playing sports, especially tennis. Tennis elbow can become serious when there is significant inflammation and overuse to the elbow. Our orthopedic specialists can evaluate your young athlete and advise you on his care.

Sudden Acute Injuries

If there is a direct blow, penetrating injury, or fall, the young athlete could experience a sudden, acute injury to the elbow. Pain will be severe and you can expect bruising and swelling soon after the injury has occurred. These types of injuries can result in injuries to ligaments and tendons, joint injuries called sprains, pulled muscles called strains, dislocations, and broken bones. If your child or young athlete has a sudden acute injury of the elbow, you should seek immediate medical attention and then have him evaluated by an orthopedic specialist.