Teen Health 411
Teen Health 411

Sports and Injuries in Teens - Tennis Elbow

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Tennis elbow or a unilateral collateral ligament (UCL) tear is common in young athletes that play baseball or football and throw javelin, but can occur at any age. This injury seems to occur more in less-skilled players, suggesting that good technique and conditioning are important.

It is a tear in the UCL that normally occurs when the strain of one pitch/throw becomes too much for the ligament to take. This doesn’t build up over time as other injuries do, but is an acute injury that happens all at once. The over use causes inflammation & pain in the muscles that attach to the elbow. It gets sore to the touch and hurts to grab (grip) things and shake hands.

The treatment is generally reconstruction. The UCL is removed and then replaced with a tendon from the wrist or a section of the hamstring. However, if surgery is not required you can cut back on the activities that hurt and avoid repetitive activities. You can ice the area and take Ibuprofen to reduce the inflammation. Finally, as it gets better, do wrist curls with increasing weight – palm down.

It will take several weeks to six months for people to get better, but most do. Take it slowly and use a brace or tennis elbow strap to reduce the muscle pulling on the elbow. Physically therapy helps some people, as does ultrasound therapy.

Prevention includes two-handed back strokes, which is less hard on the body than a one-handed back stroke.

Photo credit: oddharmonic
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About the Author

Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent health.

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