The athlete's elbow is a remarkable example of motion, strength, and durability. The stress placed on the elbow during sport, including the throwing motion, may lead to soft-tissue ligamentous and nerve injury. The thrower's elbow illustrates one example of possible nerve injury about the elbow in sport, related to chronic repetitive tensile and compressive stresses to the ulnar nerve associated with elbow flexion and valgus position. Besides the throwing athlete, nerve injury from high-energy direct-impact forces may also damage nerves around the elbow in contact sports. Detailed history and physical examination can often make the diagnosis of most upper extremity neuropathies. The clinician must be aware of the possibility of isolated or combined nerve injury as far proximal as the cervical nerve roots, through the brachial plexus, to the peripheral nerve terminal branches. Electrodiagnostic studies are occasionally beneficial for diagnosis with certain nerves. Nonoperative management is often successful in most elbow and upper extremity neuropathies. If conservative treatment fails, then surgical treatment should address all potentially offending structures. In the presence of medial laxity and concurrent ulnar neuritis, the medial ulnar collateral ligament warrants surgical treatment, in addition to transposition of the ulnar nerve. The morbidity of open surgical decompression of nerves in and around the elbow is potentially career threatening in the throwing athlete. This mandates an assessment of the adequacy of the nonsurgical treatment and a thorough preoperative discussion of the risks and benefits of surgery.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
- Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation