The ulnar collateral ligament (UCL), also called medial collateral ligament, is located on the inside of the elbow and connects the ulna bone to the humerus bone. It is one of the main stabilizing ligaments in the elbow, especially with overhead activities such as throwing and pitching.
When this ligament is injured, it can end a professional athlete’s career unless surgery is performed. The common symptoms associated with a UCL injury are as follows:
- Pain on inner side of the elbow
- Unstable elbow joint
- Numbness in the little finger or ring finger
- Decreased performance in activities such as throwing baseballs or other objects
UCL reconstruction surgery involves replacing a torn ulnar collateral ligament with a tendon from elsewhere in the body. It is also referred to as Tommy John Surgery.
Treatment of UCL Injuries
Your physician will recommend conservative treatment options to treat the symptoms associated with UCL injury unless you are a professional or collegiate athlete. In these cases, if the patient wants to continue in their sport, surgical reconstruction is performed.
Conservative treatment options that are commonly recommended for non-athletes include the following:
- Activity restrictions
- Ice compression
- Physical therapy
- Pulsed ultrasound to increase blood flow to the injured ligament and promote healing
- Professional instruction
If conservative treatment options fail to resolve the condition and symptoms persist for 6-12 months, your surgeon may recommend ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction surgery.