What Happens When You Dislocate Your Elbow?

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Unfortunately, it's not a particularly uncommon injury and mechanism that you might see in tackle football.

The elbow is actually a relatively simple hinge joint that is constrained or stabilized by a combination of the bones fitting together, the ligaments that hold the bones together, and then the muscles that span the elbow joint.

And when an abnormal force from a direct blow or fall or twisting type of mechanism, any of which could be encountered in a tackle football scenario, it will essentially pop out of socket, or dislocate.

Of the conditions in orthopedics that are true emergencies, a dislocated joint is certainly one of those.

They need a relatively rapid reduction.

Keeping an elbow out of socket or dislocated for an extended period of time could put some stress and temporary or even permanent damage to those nerves and vessels.

A simple elbow and shoulder dislocation is typically not the type of injury that requires anesthesia, and a very simple maneuver can get that popped back into place.

And that can usually happen on the field, on the sideline, or, at worse, in the locker room.

The key after an elbow dislocation is, is the joint stable?

And if the bony constraints provide enough stability to the elbow, despite torn muscles and ligaments, then that athlete can typically return to play very, very quickly.

Clearly, physical therapy is a cornerstone to recovering.

They kind of go through a full array of exercises-- mobility, as well as working on stretching them.

And as they get further along, they work on strengthening, whether with tubing.

They use weights with it. There's a fine line between getting too much motion too quickly and having them get too stiff.

And the elbow will not always require surgery.

It's a quicker time frame that they come back.

And then we see more elbows that don't, that once the re-locate them, then they'll stay more stable.

He's back playing, and he's doing a great job.

Clearly, he's completely healed from the elbow injury.

The prognosis after this tends to be very, very good.

We can see elite athletes at the very, very highest level playing amongst the most physical contact sports on the planet return without surgery and be very productive with minimal symptoms.