Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL) Tear

Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that hold bones together. In the elbow joint, the ulnar collateral ligament, or UCL, holds the ulna (lower arm bone) to the humerus (upper arm bone). When the ulnar collateral ligament gets torn due to injury, the elbow can become unstable.

Cause

  • The ulnar collateral ligament may become torn due to a single traumatic episode — or more commonly, repetitive injury, such as throwing a baseball.
  • The UCL may also become torn due to trauma, such as a broken elbow.

Conditions

  • Biceps Tendon Rupture
  • Bursitis
  • Coronoid Fracture
  • Distal Humerous Fracture
  • Elbow Arthritis
  • Elbow Dislocation
  • Elbow Epicondylitis
  • Elbow Fractures in Children
  • Forearm Fractures
  • Golfer’s Elbow
  • Olecranon Fracture
  • Radial Head Fracture
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis of the Elbow
  • Stiffness of the Elbow
  • Tennis Elbow
  • Throwing Injury
  • Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL) Tear

Treatments

  • Autograft (UCL) Tear
  • Biceps Tendon Rupture Surgery
  • Bursitis/Impingement Surgery
  • Coronoid Fracture Surgery
  • Closed Reduction (Elbow) Surgery
  • Distal Radial Fracture Surgery
  • Elbow Arthritis Surgery
  • Elbow Arthroplasty Surgery
  • Elbow Arthroscopy Surgery
  • Elbow Epicondylitis Surgery/Tenex FAST Procedure
  • Elbow Fracture Surgery
  • Elbow Replacement Surgery
  • Olecranon Fracture Surgery
  • Radial Head Fracture Surgery
  • Tennis Elbow – Tenex FAST Surgery
  • Throwing Injury Surgery

Conservative Treatments

The Orthopedic physicians at Peninsula Bone & Joint Clinic provide conservative treatment options for Elbow conditions and injuries.

Symptoms

The most common symptom of a torn ulnar collateral ligament elbow injury is pain on the medial side (inside, or pinky finger side) of the arm, from the elbow to the wrist. Occasionally, a baseball player who tears his UCL may feel a “pop” with intense pain after throwing.

Diagnosis

Physical Examination & Patient History

During your first visit, your doctor will talk to you about your symptoms and medical history. During the physical examination, your doctor will check all the structures of your injury, and compare them to your non-injured anatomy.  Most injuries can be diagnosed with a thorough physical examination.

Imaging Tests

Imaging Tests Other tests which may help your doctor confirm your diagnosis include:

X-rays. Although they will not show any injury, x-rays can show whether the injury is associated with a broken bone.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. If your injury requires an MRI, this study is utilized to create a better image of soft tissues injuries. However, an MRI may not be required for your particular injury circumstance and will be ordered based on a thorough examination by your Peninsula Bone & Joint Clinic Orthopedic physician.

Treatment Options

Non-Surgical

A mild ulnar collateral ligament injury will often resolve on its own with conservative treatment. This includes rest, ice, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, and sometimes, therapy. Your Peninsula Bone & Joint Clinic physician will most likely place the arm in a cast or splint for a period of time in order to allow the ligament to heal properly and stay protected.

 

Surgical

In high-level athletes, patients who have acute trauma associated with an ulnar colateral ligament tear, or for those who experience persistent elbow pain and elbow instability, a reconstruction surgery may be required. Ulnar colateral ligament tears and ruptures are treated using an arthroscopic surgical approach where the ligament is reconstructed using a soft tissue graft. This surgical technique, known as the “Tommy John” procedure, will use the patient’s own tissue from the forearm because evidence-based research has shown that this particular tendon provides similar anatomical characteristics as the native footprint. Some patients may require an allograft (donor tissue). In acute circumstances where a larger portion of the ligament is damaged, a tendon transfer may be necessary.

Following ulnar collateral ligament surgery, patients are required to wear a cast for approximately 6 weeks after which moderate exercises and movements of the arm can occur. Physical therapy will be a progressive process that will initially focus on range of motion, and later, strengthening exercises. Most patients are able to return to their sporting activities in roughly 3-4 months following surgery.

Conservative Treatment Options

  • Non-Operative Golfer’s Elbow Treatment

  • Non-Operative Olecranon Fracture Treatment

  • Non-Operative Tennis Elbow – Lateral Epicondylitis Treatment

  • Non-Operative Radial Head Fracture Treatment

  • Non-Operative Throwing Injury Treatment

  • Non-Operative Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL) Injury Treatment

Treatment Highlights

Tenex Procedure

Tenex Procedure

Tenex procedure is an innovative procedure utilized by Dr. Paul Abeyta to address Tennis Elbow – Elbow Epicondylitis injuries and accelerate the treatment options available to patients.

Procedure Advantages:

  • Removes damaged tissue through a microincision and stimulates healing response. Uses gentle ultrasonic technology

  • Involves no general anesthesia or stitches. Local anesthetic (numbing medicine) only. Twenty minutes or less to perform. No need for physical therapy or additional treatments. Your individual results may vary.

  • Full return to normal activity in 6 weeks or less. Your individual results may vary.

Peninsula Bone & Joint Clinic

The Orthopaedic physicians at Peninsula Bone & Joint Clinic provide comprehensive services to all members of the family.
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