Background: Studies have demonstrated the potential of platelet-rich plasma (PRP) to heal damaged tissue. To date, there are no published reports of clinical outcomes of partial ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) tears of the elbow treated with PRP.
Hypothesis: Platelet-rich plasma will promote the healing of partial UCL tears and allow a return to play.
Study design: Case series; Level of evidence, 4.
Methods: Thirty-four athletes with a partial-thickness UCL tear confirmed on magnetic resonance imaging were prospectively followed. All patients had failed at least 2 months of nonoperative treatment and an attempt to return to play. Baseline questionnaires, including the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic Shoulder and Elbow (KJOC) and Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand (DASH) measures, were completed by each patient before injection. Baseline ultrasound measurement of the humeral-ulnar joint space was assessed with 10 lb of valgus stress on the elbow. Each patient received a single type 1A PRP injection at the UCL under ultrasound guidance. The same treating physician at a single institution performed all injections with the same PRP preparation used. Patients completed a course of guided physical therapy and were allowed to return to play based on their symptoms and physical examination findings. Outcome scores, including KJOC and DASH scores, were collected after return to play and were compared with baseline scores. Ultrasound measurements were collected at final follow-up and compared with preinjection values.
Results: At an average follow-up of 70 weeks (range, 11-117 weeks), 30 of 34 athletes (88%) had returned to the same level of play without any complaints. The average time to return to play was 12 weeks (range, 10-15 weeks). The average KJOC score improved from 46 to 93 (P < .0001). The average DASH score improved from 21 to 1 (P < .0001). The sports module of the DASH questionnaire improved from 69 to 3 (P < .0001). Medial elbow joint space opening with valgus stress decreased from 28 to 20 mm at final follow-up (P < .0001). The difference in medial elbow joint space opening (stressed vs nonstressed) decreased from 7 to 2.5 mm at final follow-up (P < .0001). One player had persistent UCL insufficiency and underwent ligament reconstruction at 31 weeks after injection.
Conclusion: The results of this study indicate that PRP is an effective option to successfully treat partial UCL tears of the elbow in athletes.
Keywords: platelet-rich plasma; ulnar collateral ligament.