Collateral ligaments are thick ligaments located on the inner and outer sides of the elbow. The ligament on the inside of the elbow is the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL). It runs from the inner side of the humerus (upper arm bone) to the inner side of the ulna (the larger of the two bones in the forearm) at the joint. The UCL stabilizes the elbow through its various motions such as throwing. Injuries of the UCL can range from minor damage and inflammation to a complete tear of the ligament.
The ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) can be ruptured by sudden traumatic accidents, but more commonly, deterioration over time results from stresses related to specific repetitive motions. For this reason, this injury is common among baseball pitchers, javelin throwers and athletes who play volleyball, racquet sports, and other activities requiring overhead arm movements. In some cases, non-surgical treatments involving rest, anti-inflammatories, and strengthening exercises can provide relief. However, in many cases, particularly in competitive athletes whose damage worsens over time, surgery may be necessary to restore stability to the elbow and improve function.
UCL reconstruction (Tommy John Surgery)
Individuals who have an unstable or torn UCL and do not respond to nonsurgical treatment may be candidates for UCL reconstruction. UCL reconstruction is also known as Tommy John Surgery, after the Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher who, in 1974, was the first to undergo the procedure and return to competitive play. Today, UCL reconstruction has become a common procedure and has a high success rate.
To surgically repair the UCL and restore elbow strength and stability, the torn ligament is replaced with a tissue graft, which acts as a scaffolding on which a new ligament can grow. In most cases of UCL injury, the ligament can be reconstructed using one of the patient’s own tendons.
This video will give you a general overview of the procedure. Your own surgery may vary depending on the extent of your injury and the judgment of your surgeon.