For so many caretakers, summer turns into full-time chauffeuring of little ones here and there and everywhere, what with sports camps, church camps, library runs, pool time, and daycare not to mention trips to the zoo, the waterpark, and the really cool playground down the street. Herding children around can be a lot to handle, and sometimes in our haste, injuries happen.
One of the most common of those injuries is called a ‘nursemaid's elbow’ and can occur without anyone realizing it. The medical term is ‘radial head subluxation,’ and it occurs most often when a child’s hand is being held above their head, and their arm is pulled; thus, pulling the radius bone away from the other bones that make up the elbow joint. In small children with lax ligamentous tissue, this injury can happen with very little force, which is why it can go unnoticed until a child complains of persistent discomfort in the elbow and often quits using the arm for daily activities due to pain. As long as the radius bone remains out of joint, the child is likely to complain of pain until a medical professional can reduce the bone into normal position by gently providing traction to the wrist and applying soft pressure to the radial head until a ‘click’ is appreciated, indicating that alignment has been achieved. Once reduced, this injury is treated simply: rest, avoidance of aggravating activities until symptoms resolve, and gradual return to activity as tolerated. Immobilization is only required if a fracture is present or if multiple dislocations happen in a short span of time.
This is an injury that can often be avoided if caretakers have an understanding of how it happens. Picking up small children with both hands in their armpits is an easy way to avoid trauma to the elbow. Even though children love to swing through the air between two adults grasping their hands and lifting them off the ground, it is also a good way to sustain this injury. Once this injury has occurred, it is more likely to happen again. Being aware of common mechanisms of this injury will help to prevent further problems with the elbow and allow the kiddos to maximize their summer fun!
This blog is written by one of our very own-Morgan. She is a certified athletic trainer working as a medical assistant with our providers each and every day in our clinic. She obtained a bachelor's degree in athletic training from Carroll University in Waukesha and a master's degree in Kinesiology from Michigan State University. She is excited to bring you updates and information about the happenings at OAW.