What is a UCL Tear?
The UCL (ulnar collateral ligament) is a ligament on the inside of the elbow that provides stability and rotation for the elbow joint. An injury to the UCL is commonly associated with baseball pitchers, however, the UCL can be injured in different ways.
In some instances, the UCL can be torn due to an accident or sudden trauma such as a fall onto an outstretched arm or an impact that dislocates the elbow and tears the UCL in the process.
In other instances, the UCL is torn due to repetitive strain (such as throwing) that weakens the ligament over time. The research has shown that repetitive throwing over the course of many years slowly weakens the ligament by creating small micro tears. Because many pitchers do not adequately rest their throwing arms, these tears do not have time to heal properly and develop into larger tears that cause pain and instability.
This injury is also common among those whose jobs require repetitive overhead motions, such as painting or construction.
If you have a UCL Tear the common symptoms can include:
- Pain on the inside of the elbow (especially when in the acceleration phase of throwing)
- Instability of the elbow
- A feeling of grinding or clicking in the elbow
- Hearing a “pop” at the moment of injury
The Board Certified Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Specialists at OSS Health have helped thousands of patients with a UCL Tear return to an active and healthy lifestyle using a variety of treatment options.
How is a UCL Tear Treated at OSS Health?
Depending upon the severity of the UCL Tear, and your level of activity, your OSS Health Specialist may recommend several treatment options.
These treatment options can include:
- Physical Therapy
- Throwing mechanics improvement
- Injection Therapy
In the instances where the ligament is severely torn, or if you are a high-level athlete, your OSS Health Specialist may recommend a procedure commonly known as Tommy John’s Surgery (UCL Repair or UCL Reconstruction Surgery). The goal of this procedure is to repair the UCL to restore stability to the ligament as well as remove scar tissue or bone spurs that may have formed around the ligament.