Elbow Ulnar Collateral Ligament Injury

Elbow ulnar collateral ligament injury is a fairly common condition, especially among athletes. A ligament is a structure that holds bones together and helps to control the movement of joints.

The ulnar collateral ligament complex (UCL) is located on the inside (or medial side) of the elbow (small finger side of the arm). Of the three bands in the UCL, the anterior band of the UCL is the arm’s primary restraint from stress to the elbow. The largest stresses in the elbow are those forces that cause twisting and bending of the elbow, such as the throwing of a baseball, javelin throwing, racquet sports or ice hockey.

These motions put extreme stress on the elbow ligament during certain parts of the motion and can result in elbow ligament injuries.

Diagnosing Elbow Ligament Injuries

Elbow ulnar collateral ligament injuries can occur in two ways – either gradually or as an acute rupture. More often than not, elbow ulnar collateral ligament injuries occur over time as small tears accumulate in the elbow ligament.

If symptoms of an elbow ulnar collateral ligament injury are present, including pain along the inside of the elbow, pain opening and closing your fist, or swelling on the elbow among others, you should consult a physician.

Your physician will take your medical history and conduct a physical examination that includes a procedure known as the valgus stress test. The valgus stress test is performed on both arms and a positive test is indicated by pain on the affected arm that is not present on the unaffected side.

Elbow Ulnar Collateral Ligament Injury Treatment

Your physician will likely recommend starting with non-surgical treatment using the RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) approach while prescribing a NSAID (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, such as ibuprofen) to help alleviate pain and swelling.

When the swelling has subsided, your doctor might recommend individualized exercises or physical therapy to aid in recovery. Should your elbow ligament injury not respond to treatment, surgery might be recommended.