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UCL Repair vs. Reconstruction: Understanding the Differences

The Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL) plays a crucial role in stabilizing the elbow, especially in athletes who engage in overhead throwing motions. Injuries to the UCL can be career-defining for professional athletes and significantly impact the active individual.

At our practice, we specialize in UCL surgery, offering both UCL repair and reconstruction procedures. While both aim to restore stability and function to the elbow, they are distinct techniques with different indications and outcomes.


What is the UCL, and Why Does It Matter?

The UCL is a ligament on the inner side of your elbow that connects the humerus (upper arm bone) to the ulna (one of the forearm bones). It is particularly important for athletes who perform repetitive throwing motions, such as baseball pitchers, as it provides stability to the elbow during these high-stress activities.

UCL Injury: A Common Concern

UCL injuries can range from minor strains to complete tears. Symptoms often include pain on the inside of the elbow, instability, and a decrease in throwing velocity for athletes. The cause of injury is typically chronic overuse, but it can also result from an acute trauma.

UCL Repair: A Closer Look

UCL repair is a surgical procedure aimed at mending the existing ligament. This option is generally considered when the ligament is still largely intact or the tear is located in a specific part of the ligament where it can be effectively reattached to the bone and augmenting it with a thick piece of suture called and internal brace.

Advantages of UCL Repair

  • Shorter recovery time compared to reconstruction
  • Less invasive, with smaller incisions
  • High success rate

Ideal Candidates for UCL Repair

  • Patients with a partial tear or a location of the tear that is conducive to reattachment
  • Individuals with sufficient ligament quality for effective repair

UCL Reconstruction: The Tommy John Surgery

UCL reconstruction, commonly known as Tommy John Surgery, involves replacing the damaged UCL with a tendon graft taken from elsewhere in the patient’s body or from a donor. This procedure is typically recommended for mid-ligament tears or when the ligament is too damaged for effective repair.

Advantages of UCL Reconstruction

Making the Right Choice

The decision between UCL repair and reconstruction is made based on several factors, including the type and location of the tear, the patient’s age, activity level, and specific goals. Our specialized team conducts a thorough evaluation to determine the most appropriate approach for each individual case.

Dr. Paletta at Performance Sports Medicine Institute performs UCL repair and reconstruction, with a 92% success rate of returning athletes to their pre-injury performance level. 

Consult the Experts at Performance Sports Medicine Institute

At Performance Sports Medicine Institute, we are at the forefront of UCL surgery, offering both repair and reconstruction options tailored to our patients’ unique needs. Our expertise ensures that athletes and active individuals receive the best possible care, with a focus on optimal recovery and return to performance.

If you’re experiencing elbow pain or suspect a UCL injury, don’t wait. Contact us today to explore your treatment options and take the first step toward recovery. Our dedicated team is here to guide you through every step of the process, from diagnosis to rehabilitation.

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