Ulnar Nerve in Sports Injury – Loss of strength in the elbow

September 25, 2013 by  
Filed under Blog, Elbow Pain

The Ulnar Nerve in Sports Injury – Loss of strength in the elbow, forearm, and pinky side of the arm and hand

“Ulnar-sided wrist pain is one of the most common symptoms in athletes of baseball, racket sports, golf, and wrestling where there is frequent use of the hands as well as in soccer and running, where hand use is minimal. Compared with all wrist injuries, ulnar-sided wrist injury is a relatively serious condition for athletes because it plays an important role in performing a strong grip and in the rotation of the forearm. Ulnar-sided wrist pain in athletes can be related to acute trauma or chronic overuse. Acute trauma can lead to bone fractures and sprains/tears of ligaments.

Repetitive mechanical stresses to tendons, ligaments, and the joint structures can lead to tendinitis or osteoarthrosis.

Diagnosis of the ulnar-sided wrist pain is challenging both for hand surgeons and radiologists because of the small and complex anatomy.” (1)

When we see a patient who complains of pain from the elbow to the pinky, a flag goes up that says UCL! The ulnar collateral ligament is a main culprit in elbow problems in pitchers. Usually when a trainer discovers a UCL sprain or tear, often the result is “Tommy John” or elbow reconstruction surgery. But if you are not a pitcher, UCL causing pain can become a chronic problem because of the “standard of care.”

If elbow surgery is to be avoided, doctors agree that strengthening the elbow joint to provide stability and pain-free movement is the first priority. However doctors disagree on the methods for strengthening the elbow.

Many of our patients with elbow pain report that they tried the RICE treatment, Rest, ice, compression, elevation in conjunction with NSAIDS (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) to help alleviate pain and swelling.

Once the swelling subsides, strength exercises are prescribed to strengthen the muscles in the elbow region to provide stability. This does not always work because the doctors are not prescribing anything to strengthen the ligaments.

In our office, we offer regenerative techniques that rebuild the ligaments: One treatment is Platelet rich Plasma Therapy.

“Presently, PRP use in tendon and ligament injuries has several potential advantages, including faster recovery and, possibly, a reduction in recurrence, with no adverse reactions described.” (2)

Elbow Ligament Problems? Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy
Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy is not a new therapy. For nearly two decades methods for utilizing blood plasma have been tested and researched. Many areas of medicine, including dentistry, neurosurgery, and orthopedics, have used PRP because of its valuable regenerative properties.

A Basic Understanding
Understanding platelet rich plasma means first understanding how the blood works. Blood is composed of four different components; plasma, red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. The platelets are the important part when it comes to PRP therapy. These are the body’s natural “first responders” upon suffering an injury. When the body feels pain, platelets are sent to the source in order to stop possible bleeding and create new tissue. Because these platelets are directly related to healing, injecting a high concentration of them into the body will stimulate new regeneration at a faster rate.
In order to receive PRP treatments it is necessary to give some blood at your injection appointment. This blood will then be placed into a centrifuge that works to separate the platelet rich components of the blood from the white and red blood cells. This is then injected into the injured area. People prefer this method of treatment because they are using their body’s own materials to naturally encourage healing. Natural healing is, of course, far preferred over invasive surgical procedures or endless prescriptions to painkillers.

Platelet rich plasma treatments have shown many positive effects. One of those effects is tissue regeneration, building stronger tendons and ligaments. PRP therapy also decreases inflammation, while also decreasing pain. It can even lead to increased bone density as the areas are strengthened.

1. Yamabe E, Nakamura T, Pham P, Yoshioka H. The Athlete’s Wrist: Ulnar-Sided Pain. Semin Musculoskelet Radiol. 2012 Sep;16(4):331-7. doi: 10.1055/s-0032-1327006. Epub 2012 Oct 9.
2. Taylor DW, Petrera M, Hendry M, Theodoropoulos JS. A systematic review of the use of platelet-rich plasma in sports medicine as a new treatment for tendon and ligament injuries. Clin J Sport Med. 2011 Jul;21(4):344-52.

Written by Dr. Marc Darrow, M.D.

Marc Darrow, M.D., J.D., utilizes Stem Cell Therapy, Platatelt Rich Plasma Therapy, and Prolotherapy for the treatment of chronoc joint and back pain. Dr. Marc Darrow is a Board Certified Physiatrist specializing in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. He is also an Assistant Clinical Professor at University of California School of Medicine, Los Angeles, where he trained, and teaches Prolotherapy to the doctors in their residency training.

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Prolotherapy, PRP, AGE MANAGEMENT MEDICINE, and other modalities mentioned are medical techniques that may not be considered mainstream. As with any medical treatment, results will vary among individuals, and there is no implication that you will heal or receive the same outcome as patients herein. There could be pain or substantial risks involved. These concerns should be discussed with your health care provider prior to any treatment so that you have proper informed consent and understand that there are no guarantees to healing.
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