Elbow operation can be risky

‘If a doctor hasn’t done that many operations on an athlete’s elbow, the doctor should ask him – or her – if they want to take the risk, according to PhD candidate Frank Rahusen, who has a doctorate on elbow injuries, a problem for many professional athletes.

In his dissertation The Athlete’s Elbow, Rahusen explains how to treat two rare elbow injuries, which mainly occur in professional tennis players. ‘The first one is called “posterior impingement”, says Rahusen. ‘That’s where the athlete can no longer straighten his or her elbow. The second is a cartilage problem, which I specialize in.’ This mainly occurs in the head of the radius bone.

Rahusen provides a lot of advice for people who treat elbow injuries. His conclusion is that elbow problems should only be treated by doctors who specialize in that area of the body. ‘There is a 10 per cent risk of complications if the doctor isn’t an elbow specialist’, says Rahusen.

Golf elbow

Rahusen’s interest in athletes’ elbows has a personal history. His supervisor used to be a professional tennis player, and Rahusen was also a good sportsman – a golfer in fact. ‘Although the injuries I research mainly occur in tennis players, golfers can also suffer from elbow problems.’

His golf career was so successful that he had to choose between a medical career and a sports career. ‘This way I’ve turned my hobby into a medical career’, says Rahusen.