Elbow injuries

Not only golfers and tennis players suffer from arm and elbow injuries, cricketers are often similarly affected. 

Improper batting, throwing/bowling techniques, as well as incorrect or a change in equipment, such as bats that are too light/heavy, put unnecessary strain on the forearm.

With all the different formats of the game like 20/20, tests and 50-over cricket at international level, some players have  resorted to using two different types of bats: a heavier one for the shorter versions of the match, and a lighter one for the tests. [This constant changing between the two different bats also aggravates the elbow tendons, causing injury.]

Most players have stopped this habit due to the increase in the lateral elbow tendinopathy, commonly called “tennis elbow”.  Bowling usually results in posterior elbow problems  [impingements], but poor throwing technique or poor stability at the neck and shoulder joints can cause huge problems at the elbow as it tries to take on the workload.

Common types of injury include:

•  Tennis elbow
•  Thrower’s elbow

Tennis elbow is localised to the outside of the elbow. It can occur as a result of throwing, especially if the cricketer leads the throwing motion with his elbow, or crosses his feet, allowing little force to be generated through the pelvis, forcing the shoulder and elbow to take over.

Other possible causes of elbow pain would be a batsman attempting to use his wrist to flick the bat, change his bat weight, or make the grip too small or big.

The pain is localized to the elbow and is aggravated by wrist and finger movements (such as shaking someone’s hand).  Any movement involving a grip: opening and closing taps, opening and closing door handles, carrying bags with all the air travel, etc., may aggravate the pain.

This injury is managed with physiotherapy and rehabilitation to correct strength imbalances of the forearm and shoulder joints. It is important that the throwing and batting technique and equipment be assessed to identify risk factors for this injury.

Although not as common as tennis elbow, thrower’s elbow is just as debilitating and painful. Thrower’s elbow affects both the inside and back of the elbow.

It is an overuse injury due to the extremely high forces on the elbow joint when throwing a ball. The throwing motion causes the structures on the front of the elbow to stretch, while at the same time compressing the structures at the back of the elbow. Over time this results in micro fractures in the forearm bones, and can eventually lead to bone spurs, bone chips, and impingement of soft tissue structures at the back of the elbow joint (olecranon).

Content reviewed and enhanced by Dr Joe de Beer, a well-known orthopaedic specialist, and T-J Malherbe, a physiotherapist. Both are from Cape Town.

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