Do Clinical Results and Return-to-Sport Rates After Ulnar Collateral Ligament Reconstruction Differ Based on Graft Choice and Surgical Technique?

Orthop J Sports Med. 2016 Nov 10;4(11):2325967116670142. doi: 10.1177/2325967116670142. eCollection 2016 Nov.


Background: Ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction (UCLR) has become a common procedure performed in overhead-throwing athletes of many athletic levels.

Purpose/hypothesis: The purpose of this study was to determine whether clinical outcomes and return-to-sport (RTS) rates differ among patients undergoing UCLR based on graft choice, surgical technique, athletic competition level, handedness, and treatment of the ulnar nerve. We hypothesized that no differences would exist in clinical outcomes or RTS rates between technique, graft choice, or other variables.

Study design: Cohort study; Level of evidence, 3.

Methods: All patients who underwent UCLR from January 1, 2004 through December 31, 2014 at a single institution were identified. Charts were reviewed to determine patient age, sex, date of surgery, sport played, handedness, athletic level, surgical technique, graft type, and complications. Patients were contacted via telephone to obtain the RTS rate, Conway-Jobe score, Timmerman-Andrews score, and Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic (KJOC) Shoulder and Elbow score.

Results: Eighty-five patients (mean age at surgery, 19.3 ± 4.7 years; 92% male; 78% right hand-dominant) underwent UCLR between 2004 and 2014 and were available for follow-up. Overall, 87% were baseball pitchers, 49.4% were college athletes, and 41.2% were high school athletes. No significant difference existed between the docking and double-docking techniques, graft choice, handedness, sex, activity level, and treatment of the ulnar nerve with regard to clinical outcomes, RTS, or subsequent surgeries (all P > .05). More complications were seen in the docking technique compared with the double-docking technique (P = .036). Hamstring autograft was used more commonly with the docking technique (P = .023) while allograft was used more commonly with the double-docking technique (P = .0006).

Conclusion: Both the docking and double-docking techniques produce excellent clinical outcomes in patients undergoing UCLR. No difference in outcome scores was seen between surgical technique or graft type. The double-docking technique had fewer complications than the docking technique.

Keywords: Tommy John; baseball; elbow; graft; surgical technique; ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction (UCLR).