The Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL) is found on the inside part of the elbow and attaches the humerus (upper arm bone) to the ulna (lower arm bone). A UCL sprain is an overstretch or tear of the ligament.
A UCL sprain due to overuse most commonly occurs in baseball pitchers or other head overhead athletes. You can also sprain your UCL with an acute trauma, like a fall on an outstretched arm.
– Poor throwing mechanics due to hip, core, back, or shoulder weakness or stiffness.
– Poor arm care.
– Pain on the inside of the elbow.
– Pop/snap sensation at the inside of the elbow.
– Restricted elbow range of motion.
-Numbness or tingling in the hand.
– Swelling/discoloration on the inside of the elbow.
– Inability to perform activities of daily living.
At Home Tests
– None — see symptom checklist.
At Home Care
– Avoid irritating activities.
– Comfort care: Ice, NSAIDs.
When to Seek Help
UCL tears can worsen if you continue to throw/pitch. If you are experiencing the above symptoms, contact your physical therapist immediately to avoid further damage. Some UCL sprains will require surgery (Tommy John’s) and your physical therapist can determine if you need further surgical assessment or imaging.
Inspired Athletx Treatment
Non-surgical and post-surgical management of a UCL Tear are fairly similar. We begin with manual therapy to reduce pain and inflammation, as well as improve mobility at the elbow and shoulder. During the immobilization phase, corrective exercises focus on shoulder stability, posture, and inefficiencies in the hip/core that contribute to overuse at the elbow. As you progress, your PT will address throwing/pitching mechanics and direct your long toss and return-to-pitching program.