Golfer’s Elbow Overview
Many athletes and active individuals consider golf a low-impact sport, but the reality is that numerous injuries can occur from overuse. Some of the common injuries include golfer’s elbow, wrist injuries and elbow tendonitis. Experienced with treating athletes at all levels, Dr. Waterman can assist patients with golfer’s elbow symptoms and get them back to the sport they love.
Golfer’s elbow, or medial epicondylitis, leads the list of golf injuries and is most commonly found in men aged 20-49 years. Many patients will experience troublesome golfer’s elbow symptoms with a sudden increase in activity or at the beginning of the playing season. Golfer’s elbow is not only found in golf, it can also occur in patients involved in racquet sports, throwing sports and weight training.
This elbow injury is caused by damage to the tendons that attach the forearm muscles to the inside elbow bone. The tendons and muscles become damaged from overuse, poor body mechanics and improperly fit equipment. Any of these items, or a combination of all items, can lead to elbow pain and tenderness.
Golfer’s Elbow Symptoms
Golfer’s elbow symptoms include pain and tenderness on the inside of the elbow, typically worsened with movement. Patients may also experience stiffness, numbness, tingling and weakness in the elbow, wrist and hand area. These symptoms can be felt not only when swinging a golf club, but also when shaking hands, flexing the wrist, squeezing an item or turning a doorknob.
Diagnosis of Golfer’s Elbow
In order to diagnose golfer’s elbow, Dr. Waterman will perform a thorough medical review and physical examination. He will begin by asking the patient questions about the onset of golfer’s elbow symptoms, daily activities and any recent elbow injuries. After discussing the patient’s medical history, he will perform a physical examination. Pressure is typically applied to the affected area and the fingers, wrist and elbow are moved in various directions to evaluate the pain and stiffness level. Dr. Waterman may also recommend X-rays or an MRI to rule out any associated injuries.
Treatment of Golfer’s Elbow Symptoms
Dr. Waterman will typically recommend the RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) method as the first form of treatment. The combination of these items often eliminates golfer’s elbow symptoms by allowing the injury to heal with limited activity. Physical therapy may also be recommended in certain cases to strengthen the tendons. Finally, injections are commonly used to help decrease inflammation and allow injured tissue to heal. More that 90% of patients will respond favorably to conservative care with gradual return to all activities and sports.
If golfer’s elbow symptoms do not improve with non-surgical treatment or if left untreated for an extended period of time, Dr. Waterman may recommend surgery. Fortunately surgery is rarely required. However, in cases which do not respond to other treatements, a minimally invasive procedure will be performed to repair the torn tendons. Arthroscopic elbow surgery is successful for many patients.
At a Glance
Dr. Brian Waterman, MD
- Chief & Fellowship Director, Sports Medicine, Wake Forest
- Team Physician, Wake Forest University, Chicago White Sox
- Military affiliation/Decorated military officer and surgeon
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