Armbar Elbow Injuries
are some of the most common I see amongst the BJJ athletes I work with. Worst case scenario for an armbar elbow injury, you could have a bone fracture, best case a light sprain of ligaments and tendons. Regardless, you need to take the right steps to heal properly and get back to 100% to avoid chronic lingering elbow problems.
This post is meant to highlight the most common structures injured after an armbar and briefly highlight a rehab protocol you should follow. If you are wanting more detail however, you can find our step-by-step armbar rehab program [HERE INSERT LINK].
Common Structures Injured
An armbar works because it hyper extends the elbow joint, putting excessive pressure on all the structures. Not only do muscles, tendons, and ligaments stabilize the joint; the bones create a mechanical block when fully extended. When hyper-extended, all these structures are over-stressed and can be damaged. Commonly heard pops are often ruptured ligaments, tendons, and/or bone fractures. In another post I breakdown the specifics Armbar Elbow Injuries, you can find it HERE. Based on a BJJ study in 2017, these are the most common findings after injury from armbars: Total or Partial ruptures to the common flexor tendons.
Ruptured the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL).
Bone bruises and micro-fractures of distal humerus and olecranon (elbow).
Joint effusion (swelling).
And sometimes shoulder injuries happen in combination as well. Check out our Evidence-Based Rotator Cuff Program if your shoulder is giving you problems!
The biggest potential problem is a fracture of your ulna and or humerus. A simple test will help you out. A study from 2008 (source at end) showed that if you are unable to complete the simple test shown below, there is more than a 50% chance you need to take a trip for an x-ray.
If you can complete this test, it is unlikely you fractured anything. This is great news as your return to training time has just been drastically reduced. If you cannot complete this test, you should see your doctor and organize an x-ray. Keep in mind the test isn’t 100%, so you may be able to complete the test and still have a fracture, or visa versa. This is why a professional assessment is very important still and can save you time, money, and missing out on training. You can get into contact with us HERE to get a professional opinion and advice.
Step 1: Regain normal range of movement. (5-7 days)
Often with joint injuries, due to swelling, inflammation, and protective guarding, you wont be able to bend or straighten it as smoothly as normal. The first step to rehab is regaining this movement back. An easy way to regain that mobility include daily exercises. 2 great exercises to regain mobility include:
Active Assisted Elbow Flexion/Extension 1×30 reps.
Active Elbow Extension Hold 1×1 min.
*3 more proven exercises included in Armbar Rehab Program
Step 2: Start to load the tissues through range (5-7 days)
Once you have regained normal range of movement, it is time to start loading into that full range. Below, some excellent rehab exercises are highlighted:
Push-up position weight rocking back and forth 1x 1 min.
Full Elbow Flx Hold 1×1 min.
*7 more proven exercises included in Armbar Rehab Program
Step 3: Explosive and Late-Stage Rehab Exercises (7-14 days)
*5 more proven exercises included in Armbar Rehab Program.
With a minor injury, follow the steps laid out and attempt the basic exercises over a 1-2 week period to fully recover and feel good. If you are still struggling with pain, stiffness, or inability to train, then you need more help and it is time to take the next step.
You have 2 options:
- Try our more in depth online program, full of specific exercises explained each step of the way to grade you through a rehab process which has worked for 95% of the armbar injuries I have treated. Find it here ONLINE PROGRAM
- If your elbow isn’t getting better, or you have re-injured it. It is time for someone to look at your elbow. Come and see us to get the best quality of care by a professional who understand your sport and training! CONTACT US
The worst thing you can do is keep waiting hoping it will completely heal by itself. Every day you delay, the harder it is to get back to 100%. It is your body, take care of it! If you don’t know where to start, contact us today! We are happy to offer helpful advice to get you moving in the right direction.
📚📚📚 SOURCE: Appelboam et al. Elbow extension test to rule out elbow fracture. BMJ 2008;337:a2428