The elbow (olecranon) bursa is a thin sac of fluid that lies between the boney tip of the elbow in the back of the arm (the olecranon) and the skin. Normally, this sac has only a minimal amount of fluid in it and the bursa acts as a cushion for the tip of the elbow. However, the bursa can fill with extra fluid and become swollen if it becomes irritated or inflamed. This condition is termed elbow (olecranon) bursitis.
A common cause of olecranon bursitis is trauma, such as falling on the elbow or hitting the elbow on a hard surface. This can occur during any sporting event when someone has a fall on their elbow and has been described often in football, hockey, basketball, and volleyball players. Olecranon bursitis can also occur in people who rest their elbow on a hard surface for a long period of time, including when typing on a computer keyboard, and is commonly known as “student’s elbow.”
In addition to athletes and students, people in other occupations where olecranon bursitis has been shown to occur more frequently include plumbers, miners, mechanics, and gardeners. In addition, people with certain medical conditions such as gout and rheumatoid arthritis can be more prone to develop olecranon bursitis.