Like osteochondritis dissecans of the knee, osteochondritis dissecans of the capitellum, or OCD, involves a similar lesion in the elbow of young athletes. Typically it is seen in gymnasts or baseball players with repetitive compression to the outside of the elbow. The disease process is exactly the same in that the bone under the articular cartilage starts to die for unknown reasons. Often the articular cartilage remains intact but occasionally it can fragment, creating a loose piece of bone and cartilage floating in the elbow.

Signs and symptoms of OCD of the capitellum

This process typically involves young athletes, both male and female. Often a young athlete will complain of dull pain or soreness and swelling. If the lesion has broken free in the joint, he or she might complain of catching, clicking, or locking.

Also read:
Osteochondritis Dissecans and youth football.
Common elbow injuries suffered by young baseball pitchers

In the office, the surgeon will perform a physical examination. Often there is no specific area of bony or soft tissue tenderness to palpation. Occasionally clicking can be felt if the fragment is loose or unstable, and the athlete might lack full range of motion as well. X-rays often show the lesion. An MRI, or even an MR arthrogram, is often ordered to look at the overlying cartilage and help plan treatment.

Osteochondritis dissecans or OCD lesion

Surgery and non-surgical treatment options for osteochondritis dissecans of the capitellum

In young athletes with open growth plates, nonsurgical treatment can be attempted. It typically consists of completely stopping gymnastics or throwing until the lesion heals. Success rates for nonsurgical treatment in this population are reasonably good. If the osteochondritis dissecans lesion is free within the joint or felt to be unstable by radiographic studies, surgical treatment is usually indicated. The nature of the treatment depends on the nature of the lesion. Options range from arthroscopically debriding the lesion or removing it and drilling holes to try to stimulate fibrocartilage formation. Occasionally cylinders of bone and cartilage can be placed in the defect to try to recreate the normal contour of the joint.

Return to sports

Return to sports is variable depending on the nature of the lesion and a treatment. Usually surgeons will not allow patients to return to sports until the lesion is healed. Since the elbow is not a weightbearing joint, normal activities are usually allowed, but gymnastics or throwing is usually discouraged for anywhere from 6 weeks to 4 to 6 months depending on the surgical treatment needed.

I want to help you! Please take a few seconds to share the biggest challenge or struggle you’re facing with your injury! Click here!

Recommended Products and Resources
Click here to go to Dr. David Geier’s Amazon Influencer store!
Due to a large number of questions I have received over the years asking about products for health, injuries, performance, and other areas of sports, exercise, work and life, I have created an Amazon Influencer page. While this information and these products are not intended to treat any specific injury or illness you have, they are products I use personally, have used or have tried, or I have recommended to others. THE SITE MAY OFFER HEALTH, FITNESS, NUTRITIONAL AND OTHER SUCH INFORMATION, BUT SUCH INFORMATION IS DESIGNED FOR EDUCATIONAL AND INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. THE CONTENT DOES NOT AND IS NOT INTENDED TO CONVEY MEDICAL ADVICE AND DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PRACTICE OF MEDICINE. YOU SHOULD NOT RELY ON THIS INFORMATION AS A SUBSTITUTE FOR, NOR DOES IT REPLACE, PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL ADVICE, DIAGNOSIS, OR TREATMENT. THE SITE IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY ACTIONS OR INACTION ON A USER’S PART BASED ON THE INFORMATION THAT IS PRESENTED ON THE SITE. Please note that as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.