UCL Tear: (Tommy John Injury) The Ulnar Collateral Ligament is the strong support for movement for the medial side of your elbow. (pinky side) This is most commonly injured in overhead throwing sports, predominantly baseball. This injury occurs primarily from overuse and repetitive stress but can be from a traumatic event as well. Often patients feel a “pop”, immediate pain and inability to throw.
A UCL tear is diagnosed on exam followed by an MRI or MR Arthrogram. If the UCL is torn, depending on the level of activity and sport, it’s not always necessary to repair. We recommend surgery to young, overhead athletes who would like to return back to sport. Often Hockey players, golfers, runners, soccer players and football players don’t necessarily need a repair. We recommend a short course of physical therapy and a brace for protection, depending on the activity level.
Surgical repair for the UCL is an open procedure involving a graft from either the hamstring or palmaris longus (wrist tendon). Dr. Nicholson estimates recovery time, for a complete tear, between 9-12 months. For a partial repair, we use an “internal brace” and recovery time is escalated between 6-9 months.