Bone Spurs

…A bone spur is simply a localized overgrowth of bone.
Bone spurs are very common in throwers’ elbows and reflect the body’s response to the high forces placed on the elbow during throwing. A bone spur is simply a localized overgrowth of bone. Like muscle, if you place bone under high stress the bone will grow larger and denser.

So, it is no surprise that the bones in a pitcher’s elbow will grow in areas where the stress is highest, resulting in bone spurs. Usually these spurs are entirely harmless and painless. Sometimes they can grow quite large and still cause no trouble. But, in some areas of the elbow they can cause pain when they bump against other bones or may pinch tissue between them like a nutcracker. In these cases, they should be removed.

Clearly medicine and therapy will not shrink the spurs. If the inflammation generated by the collisions of the bones is not quieted by anti-inflammatory medications then a simple surgery can remove the spurs. The surgery is most often arthroscopic and the recovery a few months.

However, like the ulnar nerve problems, sometimes the root of the problem is looseness of the UCL. If the looseness of the UCL causes more play in the elbow joint, the bones collide more forcefully and the bone spurs grow rapidly. It is almost as if the body is trying to stabilize the elbow by growing more bone! So, if a pitcher has bone spurs in the elbow, the UCL must be evaluated. If the problem is stemming from the UCL, it must be reconstructed and the spurs removed. If the ligament is okay, then the spurs can be removed with a much faster recovery. Note that if a pitcher has bone spurs in the elbow this is sometimes a warning sign that problems with the UCL may be coming.

Dr. David Lintner - Houston Orthopedic Surgeon