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Fracture of the Head of the Radius

The radius is thick and strong at the wrist, but considerably smaller in circumference and more fragile at the elbow. When the arm is stretched out to break a fall, the forces imposed are distributed through the forearm to the upper part of the radius. The radial head, which forms part of the elbow joint, can be fractured with the possibility of chronic problems.

Symptoms and diagnosis

– Instant pain is felt when the injury occurs. This increases as the joint becomes swollen due to bleeding.
– Limitation of movement increases with the swelling. The elbow is usually held flexed at an angle of 90°.
– An X-ray confirms the diagnosis.


The doctor may:
– aspirate the blood from the injured joint with a syringe if severe swelling is causing pain;
– apply a brace which is worn for 1–2 weeks (after that the arm muscles should be strengthened by training);
– operate if the radius is badly fragmented or displaced.


A properly reduced fracture of the radial head heals in 6–8 weeks. Conditioning can be carried out through the rehabilitation period.

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