Olecranon stress fractures

What is an olecranon stress fracture?

An olecranon stress fracture is a tiny crack in the bone affecting the tip of the elbow, on the upper end of the ulna.


Stress fractures happen when muscles are tired and can’t absorb shock as effectively as normal. The overload of stress is then carried by the bone causing a tiny crack known as a stress fracture. Stress fractures of the olecranon are common in people who play sports that involve throwing.


Intense pain on the surface of the olecranon as well as underneath the elbow; this may develop suddenly or over a long period. The pain is worse when throwing and, in more serious cases, continues while you are resting or carrying out everyday activities.


Your specialist will check your range of movement as well as the stability and strength of your elbow before applying gentle pressure to the side of the elbow to check your level of pain. X-rays, CT scans and MRI scans can show the extent of the damage.


Non-operative treatment: this includes rest, physiotherapy, changing your throwing technique, or even changing the type of sport you do, along with anti-inflammatory medication (if advised by your doctor).
Surgery: If your symptoms do not improve, you may be offered surgery (usually using arthroscopy) to treat any bone spurs or osteophytes (the bony lumps around the joints) or to remove loose fragments of bone.


If you have non-surgical treatment, you can expect to return to throwing in around six to nine weeks. However, if you need surgery, your recovery may take longer. Your specialist will be able to advise you about this.


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