Ulna is one of the bones that form the forearm. The olecranon process is a part of the ulna. It can be felt posterior to the elbow as a large bony prominence. The olecranon process, due to its prominence, is not protected that much and hence can be fractured easily from a direct trauma such as falling onto a bent elbow. The triceps muscle is attached to the olecranon process. If there is a strong contraction of this muscle, then it can result in a fracture of the olecranon process, such as seen when falling onto an outstretched hand with the elbow flexed. An olecranon fracture can also occur along with other injuries such as a triceps strain or wrist or elbow sprain or dislocation, fractured radius etc.
If the fracture is not displaced, it can heal with rest, splinting and pain medications to ease the pain. If the fracture is displaced, then the surgery may be required to fix the broken bone fragments using plates and screws.
Symptoms of Olecranon Fracture
- Sharp, acute pain in posterior region of elbow.
- Patient is not able to extend (straighten) the elbow.
- Pain upon elbow movement.
- Pain upon weight bearing.
- Tenderness to touch in the posterior region of elbow.
- Swelling may appear at the back of elbow joint.
- Bruising may also appear.
- In acute cases of fracture, there may be some sort of deformity of elbow.
- Numbness may be present.
Causes of Olecranon Fracture
- Falling directly on to the elbow.
- Forceful contraction of the triceps muscle resulting in a piece of the bone being pulled and broken off due to the force.
- Stress fractures can also cause fracture of the olecranon process like in cases of baseball pitchers who can develop this condition.
- Direct trauma to the elbow such as being hit on the elbow by a bat.
- Extreme physical sports such as soccer, rugby, basketball etc.
- Falling on the elbow on a hard surface.
Treatment of Olecranon Fracture
- X-rays can help in corroborating and assessing the degree of fracture.
- Rest from aggravating activities.
- NSAIDs or other pain medications may be given to ease pain.
- If the fracture is not displaced then the elbow is placed in a splint or a cast to immobilize it and to allow proper healing.
- For displaced fracture, the surgical procedure is required to join the bone fragments by using plates and screws.
- After complete, a rehab program is started for increased mobility and flexibility of arm and elbow and also to get back the range of motion.
- Athlete should make a gradual return to sports and training.