An elbow dislocation occurs when the bones that make up the elbow are no longer in alignment. This most commonly occurs after a fall on an outstretched aAn elbow ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) tear is a common injury in throwing athletes and other individuals who perform overhead activities. The repair of an ulnar collateral ligament tear is famously known as “Tommy John Surgery”.
The ulnar collateral ligament is the ligament that stabilizes the inside of the elbow during overhand throwing. It attaches from the humerus to the ulna.
The Ulnar Collateral Ligament can be torn from repetitive stress over a period time or from a sudden injury such as an elbow dislocation. The type of tear ranges from a partial injury to a complete rupture of the ligament.
Ulnar collateral ligament tears are diagnosed in the office after thorough discussion and physical exam with your orthopedic surgeon. X-rays are usually taken to look for bone spurs, loose fragments, or calcification of the tendon. MRI arthrogram of the elbow with contrast is the most sensitive imaging study to detect elbow ligaments tear.
Ulnar Collateral Ligament Reconstruction or “Tommy John Surgery” involves replacing the torn ligament with a tissue graft that is obtained from the patient’s own tissue or a donated ligament.
The results of “Tommy John” surgery are good. It has helped many professional and college athletes and workers return to their physical activities.
Immediately after surgery the elbow is placed in a splint, which is replaced with a brace in 2 weeks. The brace is used to protect the ligament while it is healing for 6 weeks. Physical therapy is started 2-3 weeks after surgery. Return to vigorous pushing and lifting activities is expected around 6 months after surgery.
**Disclaimer: Treatment recommendations may vary depending on your true diagnosis. Always follow the recommendations of your orthopedic provider.