Ulnar collateral ligament injuries of the elbow in professional football quarterbacks

J Shoulder Elbow Surg. 2010 Dec;19(8):1276-80. doi: 10.1016/j.jse.2010.05.028. Epub 2010 Jul 6.


Background: Ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) injuries of the elbow can cause significant pain and disability in the overhead thrower. Most studies in the literature have focused on baseball players and demonstrated that surgical reconstruction is the most reliable way to allow these athletes to return to their previous level of performance. Little is known about whether or not surgical reconstruction is necessary for other types of elite throwing athletes. We hypothesize that professional football quarterbacks with UCL injuries of the elbow can return to competitive play after nonoperative management.

Methods: The NFL Injury Surveillance System (NFLISS) was reviewed for any UCL injuries of the elbow in quarterbacks from 1994 to 2008, including the type and mechanism of injury, player demographics, method of treatment, and time to return to play.

Results: A total of 10 cases of UCL injuries in quarterbacks were identified starting in 1994. Nine cases were treated nonoperatively and the mean return to play was 26.4 days.

Conclusion: UCL injuries of the elbow are uncommon injuries in professional quarterbacks. This group of overhead athletes can be successfully treated nonoperatively, in contrast to baseball players, who more commonly need surgical reconstruction to return to competitive play. The difference between the 2 groups of overhead athletes is most likely secondary to biomechanics and demand.

MeSH terms

  • Athletic Injuries / therapy
  • Collateral Ligaments / injuries*
  • Elbow Injuries*
  • Football / injuries*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Ulna*