While trying to break a fall with your hands may seem instinctive, the force of the fall could travel up your forearm bones and dislocate your elbow. It also could break the smaller bone (radius) in your forearm. Fractures of the radius often occur in the part of the bone near the elbow, called the radial "head."
Radial head fractures are common injuries, occurring in about 20% of all acute elbow injuries. Many elbow dislocations also involve fractures of the radial head.
Radial head fractures are more frequent in women than in men, and are more likely to happen in people who are between 30 and 40 years of age.
The most common symptoms of a radial head fracture include:
Doctors classify fractures according to the degree of displacement (how far out of normal position the bones are). Treatment is determined by the type of fracture, according to the classification below.
Type I fractures are generally small, like cracks, and the bone pieces remain fitted together.
Type II fractures are slightly displaced and involve a larger piece of bone.
Type III fractures have multiple broken pieces of bone which cannot be put back together for healing.
Even the simplest of fractures may result in some loss of movement in the elbow. Regardless of the type of fracture or the treatment used, exercises to restore movement and strength will be needed before resuming full activities.