Summer Fun in RecoveryFall is a busy time for sports; many athletes are hitting the fields and courts. However, with more action comes a higher risk of upper extremity sports injuries, especially for throwing athletes. Dr. Mark Yaffe, an expert in treating sports-related injuries, knows how crucial it is to address these injuries promptly so that players can return to the game they love. Sometimes, a severe injury might require treatment from a specialist to heal fully.

In this blog, we will learn about common upper extremity injuries that athletes should watch out for during the fall season and how Dr. Yaffe can provide specialized care to help athletes recover and prevent future injuries. As you enjoy the fall sports season, here’s how being aware and taking timely action against injuries can keep you performing at your best.

Six Common Upper Extremity Injuries

Whatever sport you choose, injuries can become a part of the game. Here's a closer look at some upper extremity sports injuries, along with prevention advice.

  1. 1. Acromioclavicular (AC) Joint Sprain

    An acromioclavicular (AC) Joint Sprain, commonly known as a shoulder separation, is a frequent injury, especially among athletes. The AC joint, connecting the collarbone and the shoulder blade, is essential for various arm movements. When the ligaments supporting this joint get damaged, it results in a sprain.

    • Common Causes:

      • A direct blow to the top of the shoulder is often seen in contact sports.
      • Falling on the lateral or posterior part of the shoulder.
    • Signs and Symptoms

      • Pain on the top of the shoulder.
      • Swelling and tenderness in the affected area.
      • A noticeable bulge or 'step-off' where the joint is raised.
      • Limited range of motion in the shoulder.
      • A change in the shoulder's shape or the collarbone's position
    • Diagnosis

      • Scarf Test: A physical test where the patient tries to touch the opposite shoulder with the hand of the injured arm.
      • Imaging: X-rays or other scans can show the severity and type of sprain.
      • Rockwood Classification: A system used to categorize the severity of the sprain, helping determine treatment.
    • Did You Know?

      High-contact sports like hockey and football see many of these common upper extremity injuries. In fact, while AC joint sprains make up about 15% of shoulder injuries among hockey players, the number jumps to over 40% for football players.

    • Treatment:

      • Rest and Observation: Giving the shoulder time to heal.
      • Range of Motion Exercises: Helps to regain mobility in the joint.
      • Strengthening: Beneficial for preventing future injuries.

      With fall sports seasons in swing, athletes must be aware of potential upper extremity sports injuries and their symptoms. If you suspect an AC joint sprain, don't wait—consult a medical professional like Dr. Yaffe immediately to ensure proper care and recovery.

  2. 2. Glenohumeral Dislocation

    As fall sports gain momentum, athletes and enthusiasts should also be well-informed about other potential upper extremity sports injuries, notably glenohumeral dislocation. This injury, known as a shoulder dislocation, happens when the humerus, or upper arm bone, slips out of its usual position in the glenoid fossa of the shoulder blade. It's the predominant joint dislocation, making up about 50% of all such cases.

    • Causes:

      • Forceful external rotation and extension of the shoulder
      • Fall on an outstretched arm
      • Direct blow to the posterior shoulder, typical in contact sports like football
    • Symptoms:

      • A visibly out-of-place or deformed shoulder
      • Significant swelling or bruising
      • Severe pain
      • Unable to move the shoulder
      • Numbness or tingling, sometimes extending to the neck or arm
      • Muscle spasms intensify the pain
    • Immediate Action:

      • If you suspect a shoulder dislocation, seek medical aid right away.
      • Keep the shoulder immobile; don't try to realign it
      • Apply ice to minimize pain and swelling.

    Treatment often depends on the dislocation's degree and the individual's activity demands. While many can be managed non-surgically, it's vital to understand that a once dislocated shoulder might be more susceptible to future dislocations.

  3. 3. Brachial Plexus Injury (“Burner” or “Stinger”)

    A Brachial Plexus Injury, commonly known as a 'burner' or 'stinger,' is a nerve injury resulting from the stretching or compression of nerves in the neck and shoulder due to an impact.

    Often seen in contact sports, particularly during the fall season when sports activities peak, athletes experience a distinct burning or stinging pain that radiates from the shoulder down to the hand.

    The brachial plexus is a complex network of nerves controlling the shoulder, arm, and hand movements. All nerve supply to the arm courses through this plexus. Injuries can be caused by forceful movements, such as when the head is pushed violently sideways and downward when the arm is yanked down, when the head is thrust to the opposite side, or from falls.

    • Symptoms

      • Immediate burning or electric shock sensation.
      • Numbness and weakness in the arm.
      • Warm feeling.
      • Typically, it affects one arm and may last from seconds to days or even longer.
    • Common Causes

      The fall season sees a spike in sports like football, rugby, and wrestling. Athletes in these contact sports are at heightened risk due to tackles, blocks, or falls on the head during this period.

    • Immediate Action

      If you suspect a burner or stinger during the fall season:

      • Seek medical attention immediately.
      • Avoid moving the affected joint.
      • Don't attempt to reposition the joint.
      • Use ice to minimize pain and swelling.
  4. 4. Epiphysiolysis of the Proximal Humerus (Little League Shoulder)

    Another potential injury in sports this fall is the epiphysiolysis of the proximal humerus, or 'little league shoulder.' This injury is not just a regular sprain or strain; it's an overuse injury primarily seen in young athletes who perform throwing motions on a regular basis.

    Too much strain on the proximal humeral growth plate exceeds its breaking point, causing a separation much like a greenstick fracture. However, the bone itself doesn't notably move out of place.

    Here's an overview of little league shoulder:

    • Cause

      • Repeated, excessive overhead activities, like pitching or throwing passes.
    • History

      • First recognized in 1966 as osteochondrosis of the proximal humeral epiphysis.
      • Reported in 1974 as proximal humeral epiphysiolysis in young baseball players.
    • Symptoms

      • Persistent pain when throwing or during overhead actions.
      • Usually, pain is consistent throughout the act of throwing.
      • Mainly, pain is felt on the side over the growth plate, but it can be widespread across the shoulder or even down the upper arm.
    • Diagnosis

      • Based on the patient's history, a physical examination, and x-rays.
      • X-rays are the primary diagnostic tool, often showing an enlarged proximal humeral growth plate compared to the opposite shoulder.
    • Prevalence

      • These fractures, including Little League Shoulder, rank seventh in frequency among all fractures in adults, accounting for about 4 to 10%.

      • As more people age, the fracture rate is predicted to rise.
    • Treatment

      • A break from pitching for around three months.
      • A gradual reintroduction to throwing only after symptoms have ceased.
      • Physical therapy focuses on strengthening the rotator cuff, stretching the back of the shoulder, and enhancing core strength.

    Knowledge is power. By understanding and recognizing the symptoms early, young athletes can seek timely treatment, ensuring a swift and full recovery.

  5. 5. Medial Epicondylitis (Little League Elbow)

    Medial epicondylitis, commonly called 'little league elbow,' is a prevalent overuse injury frequently observed in young baseball pitchers, particularly children under 10. This condition is closely associated with the repetitive stresses of valgus overload experienced during the various phases of throwing.


    • Potential Injuries

      1. Medial epicondyle stress fractures.
      2. Ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) injuries.
      3. Flexor-pronator mass strains.

      These elbow injuries result from the continual valgus loading during throwing, leading to repetitive microtrauma in the still-developing skeletal structure. This overload places excessive tension on the medial structures of the elbow.

      • Medial-sided elbow pain
      • Reduced throwing speed, accuracy, and distance
      • Tenderness when the medial elbow is palpated.
      • Pain when subjected to valgus stress.
      • Instability during valgus stress.

    Treatment primarily involves rest, adjustments in activity, physical therapy, and education to limit the number of innings pitched weekly. In more severe cases, surgical intervention may be necessary. Young athletes and their caregivers must recognize the signs of this condition, as early intervention and proper management are essential for a healthy recovery and long-term joint health.

  6. 6. Carpal Bone Fractures

    The wrist is a complex structure of eight small bones called the carpus. When one or more of these bones break, we refer to it as a carpal bone fracture. In some cases, these fractures can also involve dislocations.

    • Common Fractures

      • Scaphoid Fracture: Leading the pack, it accounts for 50-80% of carpal bone fractures.
      • Triquetral Fracture: The next most common, found in roughly 18% of cases.
      • Trapezium Fracture: Less frequent but still notable, making up around 3-5% of cases.
    • Causes

      • Falling on an outstretched hand or a direct blow to the wrist
    • Symptoms

      • Pain
      • Swelling
      • Difficulty moving the wrist or hand
    • Treatment Options

      • Non-surgical: Often involves using a cast or splint to immobilize the wrist.
      • Surgical: In more severe cases, this can involve internal fixation with screws or pins.

      It's crucial to seek medical care if you suspect a carpal bone fracture. Early intervention can prevent complications such as chronic pain, stiffness, or arthritis. Safety first!

Discover Sports Injury Care in Schaumburg, IL

Fall sports bring fun but also risks. Throwing athletes, especially, should be alert. Upper extremity sports injuries can happen fast.

Dr. Mark Yaffe has seen many of these cases. He's an expert in sports medicine and has treated many athletes. He knows how important it is to tackle these injuries fast. The longer someone waits, the harder it can be to heal fully. Sometimes, the injury might even need surgery.

Ready to reclaim your active lifestyle? It all starts with a simple step. Secure your appointment with Dr. Yaffe today. Our Schaumburg clinic is your destination for personalized care, designed to accelerate your healing process.

Don't let pain hold you back from the game you love. Join us in Schaumburg, where we offer cutting-edge sports medicine solutions tailored to your unique needs. Together, we'll champion your health and pave the way for your triumphant return to peak performance. See you soon!