The ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) is the primary restraint to stress across the inside of the elbow. Prior to the surgery pioneered by Dr. Frank Jobe (pictured above), an injury to the UCL was essentially career-ending for overhead athletes. The surgical techniques of UCL reconstruction have continuously evolved to improve the prognosis for the highly competitive athlete with an UCL injury. Dr. Jobe performed the first ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction of the elbow in 1974 on Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Tommy John.
UCL Injury Symptoms
Pain or a “pop”on the inside (medial side) of the elbow
Swelling or “tightness” on the inside of the elbow
Numbness/tingling in the ring and small finger with throwing
Loss of velocity or control
UCL Injury Treatment
Rest – stop any throwing activities to allow the ligament to heal
Ice – decrease the inflammation surrounding the ligament
Bracing – provide stability to the elbow and prevent any unnecessary strain on the ligament
Injections – platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) may augment the healing potential for partial tears
Therapy – designed to strengthen the muscles surrounding the elbow and improve shoulder and elbow range of motion and increase core and leg strength
Pitching Mechanics – improving pitching mechanics can help avoid injuries in the future
Are you a candidate for an ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction?
Dr. Burgmeier specializes in the treatment of ulnar collateral ligament injuries.
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An incision is made on the inside of the elbow to expose the ulnar collateral ligament. A graft of tissue is take from the forearm or leg to create a new ligament. The old ligament is left in place with the new ligament laid over the top of it in a figure-of-eight fashion. The new ligament is weaved through bone tunnels in the elbow. The surgery is an outpatient procedure and lasts 1-2 hours.