Image by Glenn Carstens-Peters

"My son's elbow is sore from playing baseball. Should I be worried?"

When it comes to baseball, elbow pain can be a serious cause for concern and should be evaluated by a qualified practitioner that has experience treating sports injuries.

The elbow is complicated.

Let's start with a basic anatomy review.

The elbow is classified as a synovial hinge joint. Synovial joints have a capsule around them, which adds strength and structure. Emerging from the capsule, ligaments extend, adding further stability to the elbow during flexion and extension.

NOTE: Ligaments attach bone to bone. Tendons attach muscles to bone.

Bursa sacs filled with synovial fluid are also present in the joint, which help reduce friction within the joint and resist damage resulting from day-to-day activities, like playing baseball!

The bones that make up the elbow joint include the humerus (arm bone), ulna and radius (forearm bones). Along with the joint capsule, these bones are held together primarily by three ligaments including:

  1. the ulnar collateral ligament

  2. the radial collateral ligament

  3. the annular ligament.

The elbow joint has two movements:

  1. Flexion, which is controlled by muscles including the bicep, brachial and brachioradialis

  2. Extension, which is controlled by muscles including triceps and ancones

A secondary joint known as the radioulnar joint (a synovial pivot joint) experiences supination and pronation at both the distal and proximal ends of the forearm, which is controlled by muscles in the forearm including pronator quadrates, pronator teres, supinator and biceps brachi. The

The elbow is also the site for common tendons that flex and extend the wrist.

As you can see, there is a lot going on at the elbow. I'll leave the anatomy review at that for now. The point that we need to take home is that there are a lot of moving pieces in a very small, compact area with the potential for things to go wrong and create a lot of pain.

The most common elbow injuries I see in the clinic that are related to baseball include:

  1. Subcutaneous Bursitis: inflammation of bursa sacs in the elbow caused by friction and/or pressure.

  2. Subtendinous Bursitis: pain and inflammation caused by over-repetitive flexion and extension of the elbow.

  3. Epicondylitis: overuse injury to the common tendons of the elbow flexor and/or extensor groups. (golfer and tennis elbow)

The original question: "My son's elbow is sore from playing baseball?"

The answer is - maybe.

Bursitis and epicondylitis can usually be effectively treated with a combination of manual therapy, rest and appropriate exercise rehab.


If you have been struggling with elbow pain this season, schedule an appointment in the clinic to get it check out. Hopefully it's nothing too serious.


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