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Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL) Tears

The ulnar collateral ligament inside the elbow joint connects the ulna (lower arm bone) to the humerus (upper arm bone). When the UCL gets torn, the elbow may become unstable and should be evaluated by an orthopaedic specialist.

Dr. Ingari examining the elbow of a UCL tear patient

UCL Tear Treatment: Why Choose Johns Hopkins

  • Whether you rely on your elbow to play your favorite sport or carry groceries, our orthopaedic specialists can help you get back to the activities you enjoy.
  • Our elbow experts are experienced in the Tommy John Surgery (UCL reconstruction) and other surgical and nonsurgical UCL tear treatments.
  • Having torn your UCL once could make you more vulnerable to repeat injuries. Patient education is an important part of our treatment approach aimed to help you keep your elbows injury-free.

UCL Tear Treatment Options

Treatment for UCL tears ranges from rest and physical therapy to surgery, depending on the severity of the injury and your health goals.

Nonsurgical Treatment

If your work or leisure activities don’t require much strain on your elbow, then nonsurgical treatments may be all you need. These treatments may include:

  • Rest and ice
  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Physical therapy to strengthen the elbow muscles and improve the range of motion

UCL Surgery

Your doctor may recommend surgery if other treatments don’t provide the desired pain relief. But more often, surgical UCL repair is performed on athletes who need strong and stable elbows to play a sport. There are a few surgical UCL repair options depending on the type of injury you have:

  • If the UCL was injured in a single traumatic event and pulled off the bone, sometimes your elbow surgeon may be able to reattach it (direct repair).
  • If the UCL has suffered damage over time, you may need UCL reconstruction (Tommy John Surgery). A surgeon would use tendons from elsewhere in your body, or from a donor, to rebuild your UCL.

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