Recovery time from elbow surgery

Discussion in 'Fencing Discussion' started by cagey bee, Sep 6, 2006.

  1. cagey bee

    cagey bee Rookie

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    I just had arthroscopic surgery on my elbow 2 weeks ago to relieve a nasty case of tennis (Fencers) elbow that I couldn't get rid of with conservative means (PT and steroid injections). I was wondering if any other fencers out there have had this type of surgery, and how long did it take to get back to competitive fencing?
     
  2. DonnaP

    DonnaP DE Bracket

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    First - this is a question you should be discussing with your surgeon as it is directly relative to what they found and how much work was done during the surgery. Actually, it should have come up pre-operatively and you would already know what the surgeons expectations are.

    Second - what is your definition of "competitive" fencing. Are you a top national fencer or are your competitions the local kind. This is only a relevant point as it applies to your motivation, what kind of abuse your arm is going to take, and how soon you "must" return to the sport.

    Third - the biggest problem we experience in my office with post-op "tennis" elbow surgeries is impatience and trying to do too much too soon. These are usually stubborn and difficult diagnoses to manage (as you noted through a poor outcome with conservative approach). If the patient isn't careful they end up right back where they started. The literature on the surgery offers only an average of 50 - 80% recovery rate. (in other words 50 - 80% reported benefit compared to prior to surgery) I'm sure your surgeon will tell you his/hers statistics are better and maybe they are, but go slow. We have a relatively good outcome but we really make our patients rehab slowly. Since fencing puts extreme pressure on the specific muscle/tendon insertion involved in fencing (extensor carpi radialis brevis) - my advice - let pain guide you - if it hurts at all stop - the "no pain no gain" theory does not apply here. Biologically it takes six weeks just to go through the intial healing phases and peak scar reaction. Off the cuff guess 6 - 12 weeks minimum if you were my patient.

    ps. I'm a fencer, a certified hand therapist in an all upper extremity surgical/orthopedic office, and I have this diagnoses (no surgery yet!)

    Good Luck
     
  3. cagey bee

    cagey bee Rookie

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    Thanks for the response, and I hope you don't get to the point that requires surgery. The info you supplied is consistent with what I have been told by my surgeon and physical therapist, although the Orthopod quoted a 90% success rate.

    What I was hoping to get was some real world data from fencers that have recovered from this type of injury. I am new territory for both the surgeon and PT. It's not everyday that those types see fencing related injuries, at least not around here.

    Right now I'm just working on getting my range of motion back, and have not even picked up my Epee (although I think about it all the time). At some point I would like to work with my PT to develop sport specific exercises to get my arm back in shape quickly. Anybody know of a Fencing specific protocol for elbow injury recovery?

    Thanks
     
  4. Julie

    Julie Rookie

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    Hi,
    Just curious how things are coming along? I've had tennis elbow for 9 months, went through PT with no effect and I'm going to see an orthopedist next week. Have the feeling surgery is in the cards, so curious to know from anyone who has had surgery if they felt it was the right the thing to do. Thanks.
     
  5. jjefferies

    jjefferies Podium

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    I'm not sure what the various versions of elbow surgery are. But as a rule I believe the doctors are overly optimistic in their estimation of recovery times.

    In my case the surgeon went in to remove a bone spur. At the last minute I asked that she look at the tendon which had been giving me trouble over the past several years. She agreed and while in debraded a lot of scar tissue and re-attached the tendon to the bone. Initial estimates were six weeks to begin to re-hab, six months to be back to fencing. From my viewpoint it was two years before I was competitive again, i.e. there was no pain from that area. I have occasionally still felt a twinge. But in general I think the operation was necessary and as I had an excellent surgeon, successful. If you've tried PT and all the other alternatives then I would do the surgery as quickly as possible and get the healing over with. I believe I was about 58 when I had the surgery and that may have had some influence on the healing time. I agree with the suggestion to be conservative in your approach to fencing and get a good PT to work with in regaining the strength in the arm.
     
  6. nahouw

    nahouw Podium

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    I haven't had an elbow injury, but after a car accident and 2 years of physical therapy 3 X a week, I am finally now able to start training again at a level approaching the level I used to. It takes alot of time to recover, and if you do things before you are fully recovered, you will just set yourself back -- I tried that, experienced pain, and then went back onto only my PT program.

    Also, if the root cause of your problem that precipitated your need for elbow surgery included improper mechanics for fencing, you can focus on learning proper mechanics as you are healing.


     
  7. cagey bee

    cagey bee Rookie

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    I am now 6 weeks out from my elbow surgery, and had a visit with the doc yesterday. I've been doing passive Range of Motion therapy 3x per week for the last 5 weeks, and now have most of my ROM back. I have been given the green light to begin gradual strength conditioning, and also some sport specific therapy. This mostly involves shadow fencing, i.e. just doing fencing moves in the air. This is where a fencing video game would come in handy maybe :)

    I was getting worried because my pain level is still pretty bad if I move my arm into certain positions, but the doc said at this point I should have about as much pain as I did before the surgery. It will take 3-6 months for it to completely resolve itself. Hopefully, I will be able to participate in part of this years season.

    One piece of advice I can give when having ortho problems is to see a Sports Medicine Orthopod. The normal Orthopod is not as concerned about getting back to sports. They only seem concerned about making sure you can brush your teeth or hold a fork. the sports guys understand the athlete mentality much better.
     

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