Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Elbow FAQ

Question:

The star pitcher of our little league baseball team tore the ligament on the inside of his pitching elbow. They are talking about reattaching it surgically. How well does a repair like that hold up? We were hoping he would lead us into the playoffs next season.

Answer:

The incidence of ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) injuries of the elbow in young athletes is on the rise. With more and more young children playing sports, we may expect to see many unexpected injuries.

Chronically overloading the joint can cause microtears of the ligament. Too many pitches over too many practices and games can eventually lead to a partial tear or even complete rupture of the UCL.

Fortunately, it may be possible to rehab these injuries. It takes three or four months, but a physical therapy rehab program can be very successful. The athlete can return to his or her previous level of sports play without invasive surgery.

But if instability and/or pain persist, then surgery may be needed to repair or reconstruct the area. Repair is more likely in the younger athlete who hasn't damaged the entire length of the ligament or developed bone spurs from chronic abuse.

If the ligament has torn just at one end (instead of both ends), reattaching it is a possible option. More than one tear in the tendon may require more advanced (reconstructive) surgery. Repairing rather than reconstructing the elbow is less invasive with a faster recovery and return-to-sport time.

A favorable outcome has been reported in several studies of young athletes with this type of injury. Felix H. Savoie III, MD, et al. Primary Repair of Ulnar Collateral Ligament Injuries of the Elbow in Young Athletes. In The American Journal of Sports Medicine. June 2008. Vol. 36. No. 6. Pp. 1066-1072.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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