If you’re worried because you heard a pop in your elbow that was followed by immediate pain and swelling, you may be experiencing symptoms of an Ulnar Collateral Ligament Sprain (UCL).
The elbow joint is made up of the bone in the upper arm, called the humerus, and bones of the forearm — the ulna and radius. The ulna is on the inner or pinky side of the elbow. The ulnar collateral ligament attaches the humerus to the ulna.
How does an Ulnar Collateral Ligament injury or sprain occur?
This is a common injury in baseball, especially for pitchers but is also seen in volleyball and tennis players — and is usually the result of repeated throwing. The act of throwing puts stresses on your inner elbow and over time the UCL can develop micro-tears which eventually can worsen. The elbow pain may be caused by this type of overuse or from an acute or sudden injury, such as falling or severely over-straining your elbow.
- Pain on the inner side of the elbow, both with activity or with rest
- Loss of power with throwing
- Get some rest and use an ice pack! You should ice your elbow for 20 to 30 minutes three to four times a day for the first two to three days or until the pain goes away. After that, ice at least once a day until symptoms are gone. If symptoms persist you should see a professional.
- Your sports medicine physician will provide you with rehabilitation exercises. In some cases, physical therapy may be necessary
- If the ligament is completely torn or if you are not responding to rehabilitation treatment, you may need surgery to reconstruct it.