Medial Ulnar Collateral Ligament Reconstruction of the Elbow in Major League Baseball Players: Where Do We Stand?
The ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) is a vital structure to the overhead athlete, especially the baseball pitcher. For reasons not completely understood, UCL injuries have become increasingly more common in major league baseball (MLB) pitchers over the past 10 years. UCL reconstruction (UCLR) is the current gold standard of treatment for these injuries in MLB pitchers who wish to return to sport (RTS) at a high level and who have failed a course of non-operative treatment. Results following UCLR in MLB pitchers have been encouraging, with multiple RTS rates now cited at greater than 80%. Unfortunately, with the rising number of UCLR, there has also been a spike in the number of revision UCLR in MLB pitchers. Similar to primary UCLR, the etiology of the increase in revision UCLR, aside from an increase in the number of pitchers who have undergone a primary UCLR, remains elusive. The current literature has attempted to address several questions including those surrounding surgical technique (method of exposure, graft choice, management of the ulnar nerve, concomitant elbow arthroscopy, etc.), post-operative rehabilitation strategies, and timing of RTS following UCLR. While some questions have been answered, many remain unknown. The literature surrounding UCLR in MLB pitchers will be reviewed, and future directions regarding this injury in these high level athletes will be discussed.