DR HQ: Anatomy 101—Bursitis

When Bryce Harper (OF, WAS) landed on the disabled list late last week with bursitis in his left knee, it triggered a couple of interesting emails to me. One, the writer asked “Is Harper’s knee real bad since he has bad knees just like my grandfather?”

This week’s Anatomy 101 will look at bursitis and how the ailment can negatively effect a player and if it is indeed an indicator of bad knees among other chronic situations.

What is Bursitis?

Thebursa is a fluid-filled sac that helps cushion the muscles, tendons, and bones in a joint. When a bursa becomes inflamed, it’s called bursitis. Symptoms of bursitis include pain, tenderness, and swelling that limits movement of the joint.

What Causes Bursitis?
Bursitis is most often caused by overuse of a joint. The repetitive movement can irritate the bursa and cause it to swell. When that happens, other tissues in the joint have less space to move.

Location of Bursa Sacs
They are located in the shoulder, hip, elbow, knee and Achilles.

Shoulder Bursa

courtesy: http://www.aidmybursa.com

Hip Bursa

courtesy: http://www.aidmybursa.com

Elbow Bursa

courtesy: http://www.aidmybursa.com

Knee Bursa

courtesy: http://www.aidmybursa.com

What is the Treatment?

Treatment options include rest to allow the bursa to heal. Anti-inflammatory medications help reduce painful swelling. In some cases, this can include injections of cortisone into the joint. Physical therapy may be used to increase flexibility and strengthen muscles that support the joint. Aspiration removes excess fluid from the joint. Surgery is very rare, especially with the quality of athlete in major league baseball.

A look at the DL tables from the last ten years reveal that bursitis is not that common and when a player is on the DL because of bursitis, his DL stint almost never is a long one.

The question, is Bryce Harper’s left knee bursitis a sign of chronic knee issues that will curtain his career? The answer is a resounding no! He should bounce back quickly from this malady once the swelling subsides.


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.