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Elbow Ligament & Tendon Repair

Common Causes of Elbow Injuries

Elbow injury is common with overhead throwing athletes, such as baseball and softball, as well as with racquet sports like tennis and racquetball. While these sports are the most common causes of elbow injuries, the elbow is susceptible to injury with just about any type of athletic activity. The most common types of elbow injuries are chronic, overuse injuries such as tendonitis and bursitis. Acute ligament ruptures can also occur with repetitive or forceful overhead throwing. This is especially true for pitchers, and those who throw off-speed pitches like a curveball.

About Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL) Reconstruction

Ligaments are fibrous tissues that connect one bone to another. The primary ligament that stabilizes the elbow joint is the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL). The UCL is a fan shaped ligament, located on the inside of the elbow joint. It prevents excessive outward rotation. Surgical treatment options for elbow instability include ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction.

This surgery involves replacing the UCL with a tendon that is obtained elsewhere in the body—usually the forearm, knee or hamstring. Your surgeon will harvest the tendon and loop it through the various holes that have been drilled in the elbow, in a series of figure-eight patterns. Over time, the transplanted tendon “ligamentizes,” which basically means it learns to become a ligament.

What to Expect Before & After Your Surgery

If you and your doctor decide that you need elbow surgery, you will be admitted as an inpatient. Your procedure will most likely take between one and two hours. Following the surgery, your arm will be placed in a splint for several days to immobilize the elbow and allow the wound to heal. During this time, gentle wrist, hand and shoulder exercises will also be performed.

Early range of motion is begun within three to seven days after surgery, depending on the type and extent of the reconstruction. You will be able to remove the splint and use a range of motion brace in order to avoid elbow stiffness. It is particularly important to achieve elbow extension.

Hoag Orthopedic Institute's physical therapy team is orthopedic specialized, and they will work closely with your surgeon to establish a personalized rehabilitation plan for you. About six weeks after your surgery, elbow strengthening exercises may begin. For patients who remain dedicated to physical therapy, the chances of complete recovery are very high, at above 90 percent.

Are you ready to discuss your options with a knowledgeable physician in Orange County? Contact the team at Hoag Orthopedic Institute today to get started.