Dislocated elbow: Potential cause of prolonged absence from football

FOOTBALLERS miss competition or training because of various types of injuries.
Some injuries such as the cruciate ligament tears can take as long as nine months to heal.
My focus is to highlight the need to have players recover fully before getting back to action.
A dislocated elbow is no exception to injuries that cause a fair time loss from soccer.
A month ago, I received an email from Ndola concerning a 23-year-old player who fail during a practice and ended up having a dislocated elbow.
The concern was the swelling and loss of the elbow contour or shape even after having the dislocated elbow reduced at the hospital.
Most of the time when we discuss injuries, concentration is mainly on those affecting the ankle joint, knee joint, calf muscle, thigh muscles, groin injuries and at times head injuries. It is logical that we think first about these injuries because they are the commonest in soccer.
I am always confronted with questions on sports injuries whenever I engage personalities from different sports disciplines.
Many people will agree with me that the medical care of our sportsmen is next to zero.
It must be appreciated that sport has to be organised in an environment which takes the safety of our sports men and women as a priority.
It is so disheartening that little is talked about regarding the medical care and safety of sports men at various facilities.
The only time a panic button is pressed is when something serious happens.
The commonest dislocation that is seen in sport is a shoulder dislocation.
Though shoulder dislocations are top on the list, it is not common to see a dislocated elbow in contact sport.
This will require immediate diagnosis and treatment.
Elbow problems in soccer can prevent further participation in the game.
One common cause of this is trauma to the elbow resulting in dislocation or fracture.
It can also take the form of swelling which can be attributed to repeated landing on the elbow especially in goalkeepers and at times it is the repeated use of the affected limb in sports such as tennis, badminton, and some contact sports such as rugby and wrestling which can result in injury to the elbow.
In football, elbow dislocations can occur when there is a bad fall.
Once the ligaments that hold the joint are severely damaged, this leads to a dislocation.
The affected part will look abnormal because the elbow will lose its normal contour or appearance and the player will experience severe excruciating pain.
The elbow joint is formed by the coming together of three bones which are the ulna and radius from below and the humerus from above.
The dislocation can happen as an isolated injury in about 70 percent of cases and then it can also have a fracture accompanying it in the remainder of cases.
When the dislocation does not include a fracture, then the dislocation is referred to as a simple dislocation and if accompanied by a fracture the dislocation is termed complicated.
This type of simple dislocation is referred to as a posterior elbow dislocation.
It really does not worry me on how the dislocations are classified whether simple or complicated, but my concern is how the injury is handled on the field of play.
It must be appreciated that a dislocated elbow always comes with other complications involving the blood vessels and the nerves.
The worst scenario is when there is a fracture complicating the dislocation and there is damage to the nerves that is made worse by the initial wrong handling.
It is the more reason why a qualified medical person is needed on the sidelines so that problems of this nature are minimised.
It is important that a simple dislocation is treated quickly by pushing back the displaced part to its original position and securing it.
This is on the assumption that there is no complication associated with that.
When a dislocated part is pushed back to its original position we refer to this as reducing the dislocation.
A complicated elbow dislocation can be career threatening in football, especially when the affected player is a goalkeeper. Goalkeepers always need well-functioning parts of the upper part especially the shoulders, elbows, wrists and fingers.
A complicated dislocation will need specialist treatment by orthopedic surgeons so that the outcome of the injury is improved.
A lot of young people with poorly managed or treated elbow joint dislocations have ended up having a frozen joint or a joint which has lost its normal functioning capacity.
The other complications, which might occur, can involve the blood supply and nerve supply to the affected limb.
It is important to remember that any form of excessive trauma or force to the elbow can result into a dislocation, which can either be simple or complicated.
Simple dislocations are easy to treat whilst complicated dislocations are delicate and will most often require surgical repair.
For questions and comments write to Dr Kabungo Joseph Email: or

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