Shoulder & Elbow Conditions in Sports Medicine

Injuries are an integral component of any sports activity. Improper using the joints and overuse can strain the shoulder and elbow. Research suggests that the incidence rate of shoulder injuries in high school baseball players is 1.39 to 1.72 per 10,000 injured athletes.

Those who had their shoulder injured tend to return in a week to play. Compared to shoulder injuries, elbow injuries are a lot less common, with a rate of 0.86 injuries per 10,000. But, those affected were more likely to miss out on 1 to 3 weeks of training

Sports injuries are divided into two types: micro and macro trauma. Micro traumas are unnoticeable or minor shoulder and elbow injuries that happen repeatedly. But, they can add up and cause pain. Macro traumas are a more one-time severe event. It refers to concussions and broken bones.  

If it interests you to know more about shoulder and elbow conditions, you’ve come to the right place. This guide will help you get a detailed outlook on the most prevalent elbow and shoulder pain types. 

Shoulder Conditions

The human body has many joints, but the shoulder is the most mobile. But, its flexibility can make the joint prone to injury. The type of injury that occurs can vary from person to person. For example, athletes who participate in competitive sports can overuse their shoulders or injure them when playing. 

One study evaluated the incidence of injuries in American high school softball players. Based on the results, pitchers were 2.6 times more vulnerable to sustaining an injury than position players. In addition, pitchers typically injured their shoulders.

Some of the shoulder conditions that can happen include:

●   Biceps tendonitis – If you’ve overused the shoulder or injured it when exercising, you may experience weakness and pain in the front of the shoulder. These are classic signs of biceps tendonitis.

●   Rotator cuff tendonitis – Commonly referred to as bursitis, this shoulder condition causes an inflammation of the bursa. This sac-like structure is present all around the body, like between muscles, bones, ligaments, and tendons.

●   Rotator cuff tears – The shoulder becomes significantly weaker when the tendon becomes detached from the bone. Any rapid movement, fall, or gradual tendon wear and tear can lead to such a problem. It is essential for someone who has already developed this shoulder condition to treat it. Otherwise, it can trigger additional damage.

●   Shoulder arthritis – Arthritis of the glenohumeral joint is a typical cause of severe shoulder pain. It affects a third of patients over 60 years old. This is a progressive condition that can profoundly impact the shoulder.

●   Partial or complete dislocation – This condition indicates that the head of the humerus (upper arm bone) is partially or entirely out of the glenoid (socket). Dislocations can lead to instability and pain. Studies show that the shoulder is the most dislocated joint. It accounts for 54.9% of sports-related dislocations in high school athletes.

Elbow Conditions

People who play golf and tennis can easily hurt their elbows. But, this kind of problem can also develop from regular physical activity. Some of these conditions include:

●   Medial epicondylitis – This condition accounts for 10% to 20% of all epicondylitis, with a prevalence rate of 0.4%. Medial epicondylitis can reach from 3.8% to 8.2% in some sports and occupations. And 3 out of 4 cases happen in the dominant arm. Also known as baseball elbow, golfer’s elbow, or forehand tennis elbow, this condition triggers pain inside the elbow.

●   Lateral epicondylitis – Typically referred to as tennis elbow, this condition is recognized by the tearing or swelling of the tendons in charge of bending the wrist backward. Any repetitive motion can strain the tendons and muscles and lead to soreness. 

●   Elbow arthritis – Arthritis can also affect the elbows. It can lead to instability, swelling, aches, and lack of proper movement. 

●   Strains and sprains – An elbow strain is a type of injury that happens when the tendons and muscles that flex and extend the elbow become stretched. A sprain occurs when you bend or twist the arm too quickly in a very unnatural position. 

●   Partial or complete dislocation – An accident or a fall can dislocate the elbow. Elbow dislocations are not as common as shoulder dislocations and are more likely to happen in car accidents or falls. 

What Is the Most Common Shoulder Condition?

The rotator cuff tear is one of the most prevalent shoulder conditions in people who constantly make overhead motions. In addition, people are more likely to have an asymptomatic tear than a symptomatic one. This type of rotator cuff injury in the general population was 22.1%, increasing with age.

Can Shoulder Injury Affect Elbow?

When it comes to elbow and shoulder pain, people want to know if an injured shoulder can also affect their elbow. With biceps tendinitis, you can experience pain in the side or front of the shoulder. These aches could also travel to the forearm and elbow. This problem, however, is often recorded in older or aging patients.

Can Shoulder Issues Cause Tennis Elbow?

The symptoms of a tennis elbow aren’t limited solely to the elbow. This pain can sometimes be felt in other parts of the body, like the shoulder. Therefore, you may experience shoulder soreness, flexibility, elbow movement, and strength problems. 

How to Relieve Shoulder and Elbow Pain?

The initial treatment approach would be to use at-home treatments. Such as ice, rest, elevation, and compression. Most importantly, you would need to avoid doing activities that aggravate the pain. Instead, athletes are advised to rest and recuperate, especially after a severe injury. 

Another option is to use a slip-on shoulder splint or elbow pad. These padded supports are designed to support the joint. When the pain causes discomfort and hinders your day-to-day activities, then OTC meds can help. Such as naproxen sodium or ibuprofen. This, however, is a short-term strategy.

Doctor Examination

When a practical solution is needed, especially if the pain doesn’t go away with at-home treatments, it’s best to consult a specialist. At first, the doctor will do a physical exam to see what type of shoulder or elbow condition you are dealing with. 

They will evaluate your elbow and shoulder condition and choose the best treatment approach to keep the pain at bay. They may suggest X-rays, if necessary, mainly if there has been a bone injury or dislocation

Final Thoughts

If you’ve recently hurt your elbow or shoulder, you may have to suspend any additional physical activity that might affect that injured spot. Prevent any further damage, apply ice, and rest. If the shoulder and pain persist for a couple of days, talk to a doctor. They will assess the body for any conditions and recommend the most viable form of treatment. In time, you will get back in the game.