On both sides of the elbow, thick ligaments hold the joint together. The ligament that connects the humerus and the ulna on the inside of the elbow is called the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL). Damage, inflammation, or a tear of the UCL is a common injury for baseball pitchers and other athletes who play throwing sports.
Causes and risk factors
This ligament is rarely stressed in daily activities, it is usually injured from overuse. Repeated overhead throwing can stretch or tear the UCL ligament.
- Pain on the inside of the elbow, especially when throwing
- A pop or tearing sensation at the time of injury
- Decreased throwing velocity
- Inability to straighten the elbow
- Numbness or tingling in ring and pinky finger
Diagnosis and treatment
Nonsurgical treatment of an ulnar collateral ligament injury includes rest, ice, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, and physical therapy. If these treatments do not relieve symptoms, surgery may be necessary to reconstruct the UCL ligament. This procedure is commonly referred to as “Tommy John surgery”, named after the former major league pitcher who first had the surgery done in 1974.