Valgus-Extension Overload

Valgus-extension overload is a condition in which repetitive and stressful upper-extremity movements lead to changes within the elbow joint, causing pain and impairment. It is most often diagnosed in athletes who perform activities that put a significant amount of force on the elbow. Turning gymnastic handsprings, throwing a baseball or swinging a tennis racquet are examples of activities that may become problematic.

Valgus-extension overload can lead to ligament strains, cracks in cartilage surfaces and loose bone fragments. Those with valgus-extension overload usually experience chronic pain, which may become severe if avulsion, which is a tearing away from the bone, or fracture occurs.

Symptoms of Valgus-Extension Overload

Valgus-extension overload is diagnosed by obtaining a patient's history, performing a physical exam and taking X-rays.Symptoms of valgus-extension overload may include:

  • Pain and tenderness around the elbow, especially when trying to straighten it
  • Locking or catching of the elbow
  • Swelling within the elbow joint

For a pitcher, the inability to throw at full speed and maintain ball control are symptoms of valgus-extension overload.

Treatment for Valgus-Extension Overload

Treatment of valgus-extension overload may include:

  • Rest 
  • Anti-inflammatory medication
  • Physical therapy
  • Immobilization of the elbow in severe injuries
  • Surgery

Non-surgical treatment is often effective but, in cases in which the elbow locks and there are loose fragments of bone present, arthroscopic surgery may be performed.

Additional Resources