The elbow may be a joint that everyone has – made up of the humerus, radius and ulna, in addition to their counterparts – but those who participate in sports are more susceptible to experiencing a valgus extension overload. Commonly referred to as the “thrower’s elbow”, this is a common elbow injury found in those who participate in sports that require the repeated use of the elbow. Although the primary victims of valgus extension overload are baseball players and pitchers, other non-throwing athletes who get hurt include volleyball players, swimmers and golfers. Treating valgus extension overload can be difficult, but the process is definitely worthwhile if an athlete wishes to carry on with their beloved sport.
Cause of Valgus Extension Overload
The result of athletes who excessively throw, valgus extension overload is an overuse injury that results from excessive forces on the medial and posterior aspects of the elbow. The repetitive motion of the elbow can sometimes be too much for the joint to handle leading to a breakdown of the cartilage in the elbow and the possibility of a bone spur. Those who are experiencing valgus extension overload will feel pain during the deceleration and follow-through phases of throwing; this pain is at the posteromedial tip of the olecranon process. Oftentimes the athlete will feel a snap, decreased amount of control, numbness and tingling.
Valgus Extension Overload Treatment
Treatment for VEO initially centers on rest from the irritating agent-throwing-, ice, anti-inflammatory medications and a physical therapy program. If the conservative treatment fails, further imaging may show a bone spur or damage to the ulnar collateral ligament of the elbow. Surgical intervention is strongly suggested in both of these cases followed by a physical therapy to regain range of motion and strength. In some cases, modification and correction of throwing mechanics may be advised to prevent future injuries.
Goal of our Valgus Extension Overload Treatment
A successful return to sport is the goal that we would love to see our patients with valgus extension overload achieve – however, that must correlate with the physical therapy exercises. Typically, if surgery is needed, then you can expect to fully return to your overhead sport in 12-18 months. Steps that must be completed before your return include, elbow range of motion and strength equal to or better than that of your opposite side and a proper progressive throwing program.