Ulnar Collateral Ligament Sprain
have probably heard of an ulnar collateral ligament sprain before. But
not likely in these terms. Ever hear of Tommy John surgery? Well,
this is the injury that results in Tommy John surgery.
what is a UCL sprain? Read on to find out.
Ulnar Collateral Ligament
ulnar collateral ligament is the medial ligament of the elbow. It is
the primary statis stabilizer of the elbow, and it is commonly injured
with sports activities, especially overhead throwing.
UCL is made up of two different bundles, the anterior and posterior
bundles, as shown in the picture to the right.
elbow ligament helps to prevent excessive valgus stress to the elbow.Learn about the other elbow ligaments
Causes an Ulnar Collateral Ligament Sprain?
most common way to injur the ulnar collateral ligament is with
repetitive or forceful overhead throwing. This is especially true for
pitchers, and those who throw off speed pitches like a curveball.
type of activity places a large amount of stress on the medial side of
the elbow, and with enough force, can cause the ligament to tear.
can see to the left how movement of the forearm away from the body, or
like with the rotation needed to throw the curveball can cause the
ligament to stretch and tear.
This is an extremely
common injury among baseball pitchers, especially at the major league
and collegiate levels.
Signs and Sympoms
you ask any pitcher or athlete who has suffered an ulnar collateral
ligament sprain, they will tell you they knew when they had torn the
ligament as soon as they did it.
This injury is
with feeling and or hearing a pop in the elbow, followed by immediate
pain, mild to moderate swelling, and a sudden decrease in throwing
The injury may be very painful, or it may
much pain at all. Many times, especially at lower competitive levels,
the elbow is rested for several days, the R.I.C.E. Principles
and it starts to feel better. As soon as they try to throw again, it is
obvious that something is wrong.
ulnar collateral ligament sprain is diagnosed by your physician or
athletic trainer through both a thorough history of the injury,
clinical tests, and usually an MRI. Your physician can determine the
severity of the sprain by performing ligament stress tests. Depending
on the severity of the sprain, different treatment options are
I and II UCL sprains are usually treated conservatively. Ice,
compression, and rest from throwing are the first treatments. You
should also be placed in an elbow brace that limits your range of
motion. This is important because you need to limit the amount of
stress on the healing tissue, in order for it to scar and tighten up.
If treated correctly, it is possible to avoid surgery.
III sprains are generally treated in the same manner at first, with
eventual reconstruction of the ligament. While an ulnar collateral
ligament sprain used to be a career ending injury, Tommy John surgery
has now become very common and very successful in returning pitchers
and overhead throwers to their sports activities, often as strong as
they were prior to injury.
Your physician will
determine your best course of action and treatment options based upon
your specific injury.
collateral ligament sprains are serious elbow injuries and must be
treated correctly in order to be able to return to your sports
activities. Grades I and II may be able to be treated conservatively,
while Grade III sprains usually require surgery. Successful treatment
often yeilds excellent results.
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