Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Elbow FAQ

Question:

I'm a die-hard baseball fan. I played on local league teams myself but finally had to throw the towel in last year. I'm only 35 but I just kept getting one injury after another. I see guys in their 40s still playing in the major league. How do these players keep it up? What's their secret?

Answer:

Don't kid yourself. Top players in the major league have their fare share of injuries, too -- especially older players (30 years old and older). The difference may be that this is their job and they spend quite a bit of time practicing, exercising, and staying in top condition. Sports trainers help them identify weaknesses and injuries early so they can deal with them right away. That's a major part of why they can stay in the game in tip top shape longer than the average guy. But there are some injuries that put major league ball players out of the game or at least demoted from major to minor league play. For example, older players are more susceptible to combination injuries of the elbow. Tears of the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) can lead to flexor-pronator injuries. The ulnar collateral ligament stabilizes the elbow. The flexor-pronator muscles bend the elbow and turn the palm down. The palm down motion needed to deliver the ball over the plate is called pronation is really a forearm motion that takes place at the elbow. When both of these soft tissues are injured, the player can no longer throw without pain that then alters the pitching action. These combined soft tissue injuries are rare but can keep a player out of the game -- permanently. Without full and unrestricted use of both the ulnar collateral ligament and the flexor-pronator muscle, successful return to play may be impossible for older pitchers. But there is good news in all this. Thanks to advanced imaging with MRIs, elbow injuries are recognized earlier now than they used to be -- early enough to prevent the more severe type of injuries suffered by older players. The hope is that these combined injuries will be eliminated in today's young pitchers and catchers. Newer surgical and rehab techniques may also help improve final results. Daryl C. Osbahr, MD, et al. Combined Flexor-Pronator Mass and Ulnar Collateral Ligament Injuries in the Elbows of Older Baseball Players. In The American Journal of Sports Medicine. April 2010. Vol. 38. No. 4. Pp. 733-739.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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