Ulnar collateral ligament injury

Ulnar collateral ligament injury

An Ulnar collateral ligament injury is one of the most common elbow injuries experienced in overhead throwing athletes. The greatest correlation found with individuals who suffer from this injury is the amount of throws completed. To understand the injury further, we first need to understand the anatomy.

A ligaments is a group of non-contractile tissue that connects a bone to another bone. In the case of the UCL, the ligament lies on the inside aspect of the elbow and connects the humerus to the ulnar. The ligament protects the elbow from lateral stress that is caused by movement.

An injury to the ligament is signified by pain and tightness in the area most commonly brought about by repetitive use. The injury can be caused by a singular trauma but this is less common. A traumatic injury to the ligament is usually accompanied by a “pop” sensation. As the injury progresses, swelling, numbness, and a feeling of instability may occur. An exam will first be conducted to determine the mechanism of injury and the affected area. An x-ray will be utilized to rule out possible fracture and an MRI is needed to fully diagnose the extent of the damage.

Rest and ice is the first course of action when an injury is present. Physical therapy is needed to improve the strength in the muscles surrounding the elbow to reduce the instability. Determining limitations in range motion along with assessing the strength of the shoulder and wrist muscles will help to develop a comprehensive program to reduce the stress placed on the elbow. In some cases, surgery is required. The procedure of an Ulnar Collateral Ligament reconstruction is commonly called Tommy John surgery, named after the baseball pitcher who made it famous. A tendon can be harvested from another part of the body (autograph) or from donor (allograph). The first phase after surgery is to immobilized the elbow. Range motion is then slowly progress to avoid over stressing the ligament and by 8 weeks, a person should have full range. Light strengthening begins after full range is achieved and is progressed slowly. A return to light sports and functional activities will begin around 12 weeks but a full return can take up to a year. The progression of recovery is not linear and takes constant adjusting to allow for a full recovery. Do not trust your rehabilitation to anyone but the best, come on down to Advanced PMR for a full evaluation of your elbow injury today.Pain Management

Posted in: Elbow/ Wrist/ Hand

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