Tennis Elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis, is a common overuse condition affecting the muscles and tendons of the forearm, where they attach at the outside (lateral) of the elbow. While nearly 50 percent of tennis players will eventually experience Tennis Elbow, many of those diagnosed with Tennis Elbow have never played tennis. The condition is the result of strain placed on these muscles and tendons with repetitive activity or movement.
Golfer’s Elbow is a common overuse condition similar to Tennis Elbow though affects the muscles and tendons on the inside (medial) portion of the elbow and forearm. A repeated activity placing strain on the elbow, such as golfing, irritates and inflames these tendons and muscles. This inflammation can cause pain on the inside of the elbow, as well as in the forearm and wrist.
The ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) is among the most commonly injured ligament in throwing athletes. To accommodate the high speed throwing motions, the ligament stretches and lengthens until it can no longer hold the elbow bones tightly enough. Severity of the injury can range from a sprain with minor damage and inflammation to a complete tear.
Diagnosis and Treatment
A UCL injury is diagnosed based on the results of a physical examination, X-ray and MRI. Depending on the severity of the damage, rest and refrain from play along with rehabilitative exercises and anti-inflammatory medication may be indicated. Work with an athletic trainer may also be helpful, to assess throwing mechanics and improve body positioning which can reduce excessive stress on the elbow.
If there is a complete tear of the ligament and patients fail to improve with conservative treatment, surgery may be indicated. Read about UCL Reconstruction, also known as Tommy John Surgery.