Wade Barrett: Understanding Elbow Surgery and Recovery

Louie Babcock@Medic_LouieContributor IIIMarch 4, 2012

Courtesy of WWE.com
Courtesy of WWE.com

Wade Barrett suffered a dislocation to his left elbow on February 20 at Raw. His injury was classified as a simple elbow dislocation, and he would be out of action for six to eight weeks. At the time there was a slim chance that Barrett would be able to compete at WrestleMania. Now there is no chance. 

Barrett had to undergo surgery to fix his elbow. He will be out of action for three to four months.

The elbow joint is made up of three bones. They are the humerus, ulna and radius. The bones attach to each other through a series of ligaments.

When a dislocation of this joint occurs, stress is placed on the ligaments. If the dislocation is bad enough, ligaments will be torn. Normally, a dislocated joint will not need surgery unless bones have been broken or ligaments need to be repaired.

The fact that Barrett needed surgery to repair his elbow means that ligament damage has occurred.

There was never any indication of bone breaks. They would have found that out instantly from x-ray, and news of that would have surfaced shortly after his diagnosis.

During the surgery, doctors will go into the elbow, find the damaged ligaments and repair them. Barrett will be put into a special brace that hinges just like the elbow does.

When ligaments have been repaired surgically, they are tighter. Range of motion in the elbow will be far less than it was prior to injury.

Picture from www.wbais.org
Picture from www.wbais.org

Barrett will not be able to begin rehab until the repaired ligaments have formed a permanent attachment to the bones. This could take up to six weeks to happen.

Once the rehab begins, the physical therapist will first focus on getting back as much range of motion as possible. This will be a hard and painful process. The elbow will have to be worked in a way that forces the ligaments to get stretched out.

The rehab for range of motion could take as long as six weeks, barring any setbacks. It is quite possible that full range of motion will never be achieved.

With athletes, rehab is tailored to put the athlete through exercises that mimic the way they use that joint in their sport.

In pro wrestling, a wrestler does not need the full range of motion in the elbow to get back in the ring. Once Barrett gets to about 80 percent of his range of motion back, the physical therapist will likely move on to strength training. The reason for this is that during strength training, the ligaments can be continued to be stretched out.

The strength training will be the critical aspect of the rehab. This not only will bring his muscle mass back up to the where it was before the injury, but it will show that he will be able to lift and support heavy weights, which is critical to performing moves as a pro wrestler.

From newwrestlingstars.blogspot
From newwrestlingstars.blogspot

Barrett has a long road ahead of him. Hopefully, his recovery goes smoothly and he will be able to get back in the ring with no setbacks.

He needs to take his time, though, because once a joint has been dislocated, it is easier for future dislocations to occur.

Louie Babcock has over five years experience in emergency medicine and is studying medicine at the University of Minnesota. Follow me on Twitter@lcbjr3000

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