Tearing of the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) is common in athletes who put stress on their elbow through continuous throwing motions.
The injury is most often seen in baseball pitchers, quarterbacks, racquet sports, basketball, and hockey players. When the UCL tears you may feel a pop or crack and a sharp pain. Marshfield Clinic has medical specialists trained specifically for treatment of a UCL tear.
Typically athletes are able to get back to playing without the need for surgery. Your physician will develop a treatment plan based on your injury.
Anti-inflammatory drugs and analgesics may be used to reduce pain and inflammation
Ice packs may be used to help bring swelling down. However, it should be used with caution as cold can sometimes be an irritant to the damaged nerve.
- Arthroscopic surgery (with a fiber-optic camera) can be used if the joint is still relatively stable. Depending on the severity of the injury, any tissue fragments and bone spurs may be able to be simply removed.
- In other cases, "Tommy John" surgery may be recommended in which a piece of tendon is taken from another part of the body, inserted at the elbow and fastened in the place where the damaged ligament was formerly connected.
Take lessons to learn the proper technique for your sport. Even if you’ve played a sport for years, ask a person familiar with sporting gear to determine if your equipment is well suited for your size, strength and level of ability.