UCL Surgery Not an Athletic Career Buster
Baseball players who undergo ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) surgery do not face the end of their athletic careers, according to a study presented at the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine's Annual Meeting in Chicago, Illinois.
"Previous studies showed successful return to play after UCL surgery, but we were also able to evaluate each athlete's career longevity and reason for retirement, " said lead author, Daryl C. Osbahr, M.D. of MedStar Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore. "These players typically returned to play within a year of surgery and averaged an additional 3.6 years of playing time”
The study examined 256 patients, including high school, college and professional baseball players. The study authors contacted the players an average of 12.6 years after their UCL reconstruction. They found that approximately 83% of these athletes were able to return to the same or higher level of competition, with only 3% reporting persistent elbow pain and only 5% noting limitation of elbow function during day-to-day activities.
"UCL injuries used to be considered career-ending, " Osbahr noted. "Now players are consistently able to return to play at a high level while also enjoying excellent long-term outcomes."
While approximately 243 (95%) of the athletes studied had retired by the minimum 10-year follow-up, 238 (98%) still participated in throwing at a recreational level with most reporting no elbow pain.