Three Things Gymnasts Need To Know About Pommel Arm

There are many injuries that you can experience after long hours in the gym, including pommel arm. Pommel arm, also called medial epicondylitis, is an overuse injury that can affect gymnasts' elbows. Here are three things gymnasts need to know about pommel arm.

How does pommel arm occur?

You develop pommel arm when you injure either the tendons or muscles that help you control your wrists and hands. As a gymnast, it's easy to injure these tendons or muscles, especially when you're training on the pommel horse. Gripping the handles incorrectly while you're supporting your body weight can lead to damage, as can using bad form, like curling your wrists.

Even if you use good form, you can still develop pommel arm. Straightening and bending your elbow repetitively can lead to damage, and when you're in the gym for 30 or more hours every week, your elbows can get overworked.

What are the signs of pommel arm?

If you develop pommel arm, you'll feel an aching pain on the inside of your elbow. If the pain continues and becomes chronic, your grip may also become weak. A weak grip can make it hard for you to continue training on the pommel horse or other apparatuses, and if your grip gets weak enough, you could even have trouble with your daily activities outside of the gym.

How is pommel arm treated?

At first, you'll need to take a complete break from sports to give your injured tendon the opportunity to heal. If you continue to train in the gym, you may not heal as quickly. Your doctor may allow you to do other exercises to maintain your high fitness level—like running—but make sure to ask if it's safe.

Injections of cortisone, a type of steroid, can be given to reduce swelling and control pain in your injured elbow. This treatment can keep your pain under control for as long as several weeks.

Physical therapy is another treatment option for pommel arm. A physiotherapist who specializes in treating gymnastics injuries can teach you exercises and stretches to maintain your strength and flexibility while your injury heals. They can also teach you ways to keep your elbow safe in the gym; this may involve modifying some of your techniques on the pommel horse or avoiding certain skills that cause too much aggravation to your body.

If you think you have pommel arm, contact a physical therapist in your area.