Ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) injury

What is a UCL injury?

The UCL connects the upper arm bone (humerus) to the forearm (ulna). A UCL injury is where the ligament becomes stretched, frayed or torn.

Causes

This type of injury can be caused either by slow deterioration from repetitive stress to the elbow or by a sudden rupture (tear). It is common in athletes who throw as part of their sport, for example javelin throwing or tennis.

Symptoms

Pain on the inside of the elbow as well as instability in the joint. There may also be tingling in the ulnar nerve (funny bone) and you may find throwing difficult.

Diagnosis

A diagnosis during a medical examination is usually backed up with X-rays and MRI scans to show the extent of the damage.

Treatment

Non-operative treatment includes rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory medication (if prescribed by your doctor) alongside physiotherapy.

Surgery

UCL reconstruction surgery is often recommended for athletes who want to return to throwing sports.

Extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ECSWT) is now an established treatment alternative for many bone and soft tissue disorders in the elbow.
Elbow fractures that are displaced, unstable or open require surgery to remove bone fragments
As most ligament tears can’t be stitched together, ligament reconstruction surgery can be carried out to replace torn ligament
Surgery involves stitching the ends of the divided tendon back together.