Elbow bursitis, also called olecranon bursitis, is a sports injury that can result from repetitive or acute trauma. It's characterized by inflammation of the olecranon bursa, the fluid-filled sac that acts as a cushion between your olecranon—your elbow bone—and the skin that covers it. Here are three things hockey players need to know about elbow bursitis.
How does hockey cause elbow bursitis?
Your olecranon bursa allows your skin to move easily over the underlying bone. Every time you pump your arms while you're skating, shoot the puck or check an opposing player, your bursa is hard at work. If you don't give your bursa time to rest and heal between games, it can become irritated and inflamed, resulting in elbow bursitis.
Trauma can also cause inflammation of the bursa. For example, if you fall on the ice and land on your elbow, your bursa could become inflamed. Being pushed into the boards by another player can also cause this problem, if your elbow takes the impact. To minimize your risk of this type of injury, wear elbow pads during every practice and game, even if your league doesn't require them.
What are the signs of elbow bursitis?
Elbow bursitis leads to pain and swelling around the bony protrusion of your elbow. When the condition is caused by repetitive trauma, it has an insidious onset, meaning that the injury develops so slowly that you don't realize anything is wrong until your elbow is quite sore. When the condition is caused by acute trauma, like a fall, it will hurt right away.
Your pain will feel worse when you rest your weight on your affected elbow. Many people with this condition also suffer limited function of the affected arm, so you may find that you have trouble playing hockey or following your workout plan.
How is elbow bursitis treated?
Your doctor will remove the excess fluid from your bursa with a small needle. Once the excess fluid has been removed, methylprednisolone (a corticosteroid) will be injected into the bursa. This medication helps to control the inflammation. Lidocaine, a painkiller, will also be injected into the bursa to reduce your pain. Your elbow will then be covered with a gauze dressing. You'll need to wear either a tensor bandage or an elbow brace while your bursa heals, which can take three to six months. This treatment is highly effective; studies have indicated that 95% to 100% of patients are successfully treated by this method. Once your bursa is sufficiently healed, you'll be able to return to hockey.
If you think you have elbow bursitis, see a doctor like Summit View Clinic.