Elbow pads are protective pads worn on the elbows to prevent or reduce elbow injuries during a fall or collision. These pads come in useful in many sports including cycling, roller skating, volleyball and skiing.
Elbow pads are particularly useful if you are more likely to fall backwards than forwards. Athletes or other individuals who fall forwards are likely to land on their forearms or palms. However, those who fall backwards are more likely to land on the elbows or bottom.
Many of the activities for which these pads should be worn also require the use of knee pads for optimum safety. Together, these two items of equipment can be valuable accessories for minimizing the risk of turf burn while playing your favourite sport.
Elbow pads can also be useful items of protective gear in non sporting situations. Soldiers often find them useful for injury prevention, as they sometimes spend prolonged periods on their elbows and knees when in combat situations .
Workers in industries like construction and painting sometimes also have to spend extended periods on their hands and knees when working in constricted spaces. In these situations, elbow pads can again come in useful in helping to prevent injury.
In either military or occupational situations, elbow pads can help to reduce the risk of olecranon bursitis. Without them, using the elbows to support body weight for extended periods can cause inflammation of the bursae of the elbow with all the pain and discomfort that that condition can bring.
Are Elbow Pads Effective?
The results of a study into the effectiveness of using elbow pads as an item of safety gear in in-line skating were reported in a 1996 article published by the New England Journal of Medicine. The study was based on data from 91 hospital emergency departments. It examined the injuries reported by in-line skaters seeking medical attention at these hospitals between December 1992 and July 1993.
The study concluded that the odds ratio for elbow injury was 9.5 for skaters not wearing elbow pads compared to those wearing such pads. This indicated that the estimated ratio of the probability of an elbow injury among those not wearing elbow pads relative to the probability of an elbow injury among those who didn’t wear one was 9.5. The 95% confidence interval for the odds ratio was 2.6 to 34.4, indicating a high probability that there was an association between the probability of an elbow injury and whether or not the skater wore an elbow brace.
The odds ratios calculated by the study were adjusted for other potential contributors to the risk of incurring an elbow injury such as:
Based on these results, the study concluded that elbow pads were effective in preventing in-line skaters against elbow injuries.
Choosing The Correct Elbow Pad Size
Choosing the correct pad size usually requires measuring the distance between the middle of the forearm and the middle of the bicep. The sizing charts usually use this measurement to help you find the correct size.
In some cases, you may find that you are in between the sizes indicated by the chart. If so, you have two alternative choices:
Choose the smaller size if maintaining elbow range of motion is more important than protection. This choice will also provide you with a more snug fit for your elbow pad;
If you desire more elbow protection and coverage, and these are more important than elbow range of motion, you should probably go with the larger size.
Neither of these choices is necessarily the right or wrong one. It is more a question of deciding between priorities in a given situation.
Checking The Fit Of Your Elbow Pad
Once you have donned your elbow pad, you should check to ensure that:
The pad connects flush with any gloves you may be wearing (such as hockey gloves, for example). It should also connect flush with the bicep guard of any shoulder pad you may be wearing.
There is no overlapping or significant gaps between adjacent items of protective gear. Overlapping will reduce elbow range of motion and compromise sports performance. Gaps will increase the risk of injury should you experience a fall or collision.