A medial epicondyle avulsion fracture is an elbow injury that occurs most often in young baseball players between the ages of 9 and 14. During this time of rapid growth, the growth plate cartilage throughout the body is most susceptible to injury. These fractures, affecting the bony protrusion on the inside of the elbow, are the most common elbow injury during adolescence.
Hard pitching can cause an avulsion fracture. The main symptom is sudden, severe pain on the inside of the elbow after a pitch, sometimes accompanied by a popping sound or sensation. The arm also may become numb or tingle from the forearm down into the fingers.
In bad fractures, the bone protrusion inside the elbows pulls away (“displaces”) along with the ligaments attached and, if the displacement is large enough, may have to be surgically reattached. This type of surgery is risky because of the close location of the ulnar nerve, also known as the “funny bone.”
Most often, these avulsion fractures will heal by placing the arm inside a cast for about 4 to 6 weeks, then following with physical therapy.
Medial epicondyle avulsion fractures can be prevented by carefully following pitch speed and quantity guidelines, and resting the elbow between episodes of pitching. Do not play through the pain.