In the majority of patients with traumatic elbow instability (in the acute setting), the problem will be obvious. In the presence of gross deformity and swelling, specific tests are less useful because of the patient’s pain. Therefore, after palpation the clinician should assess and document the neurovascular function.

The diagnosis in the clinic, however, may not be so obvious. The examination should be more structured and include a number of ‘special tests’.

The following video presents an examination of the elbow of an injured athlete.

A careful inspection for deformity or bruising is especially important at the Elbow.