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Another injury rehab question...

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
Anyone have any experience with dislocated elbows (not that I would wish this on anybody)?

A monumentally stupid move on my bike led to a gruesome dislocation of my left elbow three days ago. The reduction went okay, no surgery (at least for now), and now I'm wondering if anyone here has gone through this and can give me an idea what to expect.

Pain-free by how many weeks post-injury? Full motion and full strength? When? Lingering problems down the road?


post #2 of 10



It's been many years ago, 24 to be exact, but I did suffer a dislocated left elbow during my college football days. Like you, my doctors recommended no surgery at the time.

In my case, I was pain free within a few weeks, but experienced lingering discomfort for upwards of a year, and it was about the same timeframe that I regained full range of motion and strength as well. Personally, I experienced no lingering effects beyond that point. I was under the care of Dr. Stan Lavine, who at the time was our team doctor as well as the team doctor of the Washington Redskins. As a result, I feel like for the time, I was getting good advice. Most of my rehab consisted of physical therapy to regain the normal range of motion and to build up the areas around the injured area.

As a side note, I'm not sure that we can predict what you'll encounter based on the experience of others. As a player and now as a coach I've seen many dislocation injuries and I'm often amazed at the different experiences people have with them, as well as the different advice that people get from their doctors. Some, thankfully like myself, seem to jump over them quite easily, and others experience lingering problems and recurrences for years to come.
post #3 of 10

As an addition to my original response I want to add that it wouldn't be a bad idea to get a second opinion as to whether you require surgery or not. Most doctors today, in my experience, tend to do everything they can to stay away from surgery, which is okay if there is a realistic chance of full recovery in a reasonable timeframe. That's the advantage competitive athletes have when receiving medical advice. That is, they receive the treatment that will best get them back towards 100% in the quickest timeframe possible.

Most of those that I know that had continual problems after similar injuries ended up having surgery in the long run to finally take care of their issues. Most of them would have likely returned to normal quicker if they had been surgically repaired on the front end.

Just a thought...
post #4 of 10
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the info, Coach.

I've just returned from a followup with the Orthopod. He took off the half-cast (Thank God) and did more x-rays and some manipulation (wasn't THAT fun, boys and girls).

Based on all that, he swears no surgery required. He says I'm stable in the joint and have excellent range of motion given all the damage I did. Now it's a matter of rehab.

He claims I'll be nearly 100% after 6 weeks. That's a little hard to believe right now, but I'm going with it.

Anyway, thanks again for the suggestions and experience. I've (unfortunately) injured myself quite a lot over the years and nothing came even close to involving the level and duration of pain this has produced. I'm not enjoying this at all.

Thanks for listening.

post #5 of 10
You're welcome Bob. Good luck with the rehab and hang in there.
post #6 of 10
Thread Starter 

Speaking of joint injuries...

Just a little update on my elbow.

Going into my three-weeks-after-injury exam, I was feeling really good about things. I had reached full range of motion on extension and near-full on flexion. Still quite a lot of pain as the PT was doing the flexion exercises, but fairly pain-free otherwise.

The doc looked at the elbow, liked the range of motion, and then started flexing it side-to-side. OOOOOPS! "That feels pretty loose, we better do an MRI."

MRI results now in, after having been read by five (thanks to the wonders of CD's and the mail and skiing friends I've made over the years) radiologists.


Avulsed ulnar collateral ligament. Avulsed radial collateral ligament. Impact fractures to the inside of the humerus socket, and other fun stuff.

This explains why I was having a lot of pain on the flexion exercises.

My two docs (awaiting one more opinion) both agree that they do not want to do surgery. Both feel that the avulsed surfaces are close enough to the bone surface that they "should" fill in the areas with scar tissue.

I'm supposed to be going a little easy on the PT for awhile and just keep checking in with the docs. I guess I like their fairly conservative approach but I'm a little apprehensive that it won't have healed in by two months from now and I'll have to have tack-down surgery *then*.

Oh, well. The saga continues.

Moral of the story? Don't fall off your bike.


Second moral? Bike helmet - very good.
post #7 of 10



Don't know how I missed this back in July ...well, maybe I was riding my bike

Sorry to hear about it now Can't offer any advice, but I sure wish you a speedy recover and hope you that latest MRI discovery works out for the best!

Best regards,

post #8 of 10

I've been wondering how things were going with your elbow. I think I saw in another thread where you were making some summer turns with your brace on, so I assumed you were doing well.

The lasted prognosis doesn't sound like very good news at all and I have to wonder how the latest discoveries "snuck up" on your doctors. Did you receive an MRI when you were initially examined or just in follow-up?
post #9 of 10
Thread Starter 
Chris - thanks for the encouragement.

Coach - I think the bottom line is that there was probably so much fluid and swelling during the exams right after the reduction that the joint felt pretty stable even though it wasn't. The emergency room x-rays didn't show the crack in the radial head, while the MRI did.

The doc ordered the MRI during my 3-week-out exam because by then the swelling had gone down enough to actually manipulate the arm. At that point, he decided the ligaments felt loose enough to order the MRI.

I'm feeling enormously better about things this morning because I just got off the phone with my primary ortho guru. He's retired from practice now but is respected worldwide. His advice was essentially the same as my local doc. Now that I've got a consensus from three different docs, I'm fully on board with the somewhat conservative concept of no surgery and light PT for now.

Thanks again,

post #10 of 10

Sounds like you're in good hands. Good luck and hopefully by the season's start you'll be ripping turns both pain and worry free.
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