Autograft (UCL Tear)
Ulnar collateral ligament injury in the overhead or throwing athlete most often requires surgical treatment in order to allow the athlete to return to his or her sport. The ulnar collateral ligament has a limited blood supply so it cannot reliable be sutured or repaired to restore stability to the elbow. Ulnar collateral ligament surgery requires reconstruction of the ligament utilizing a graft from another part of your body (autograft). This graft is often obtained through several small incisions without affecting the function of that part of the body. The graft is then placed through small bone tunnels at the site of the normal ulnar collateral ligament in order to restore anatomy. If the adjacent nerve is injured, any scar tissue around the nerve may be removed. If the adjacent muscles and tendons are damaged, they may be repaired at the same time as well.
This outpatient procedure requires a splint for 10 to 12 days, followed then by a hinged brace for an additional one to two weeks. A structured physical therapy program is then carried out to restore elbow range of motion and strength. In addition a focused rehabilitation of the leg, hip, abdominal, and back musculature allows optimal return. Return to contact sports may take upwards of six months and return for the overhead or throwing athlete (baseball) may take upwards of eight months for position players and upwards of 12 months for pitchers. Ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction allows a reliable return for overhead athletes or workers to their pre-injury level.