Injury to the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) leading to medial elbow instability and possible ulnar neuritis is common in overhead-throwing athletes. Treatment may require UCL reconstruction (UCLR) and concomitant ulnar nerve transposition (UNT) for those with preoperative ulnar neuritis.
To evaluate the return-to-play (RTP) rates, clinical outcomes, and rates of persistent ulnar neuritis after concomitant UCLR and UNT in a cohort of baseball players with confirmed preoperative ulnar neuritis.
Case series; Level of evidence, 4.
Eligible patients were those who underwent concomitant UCLR and UNT at a single institution between January 2008 and June 2018 and who had a minimum of 2 years of follow-up. Additional inclusion criteria were athletes who identified as baseball players and who had a confirmed history of ulnar neuritis. Patients were contacted at a minimum of 2 years from surgery and assessed with the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic (KJOC) Shoulder and Elbow Score, Andrew-Timmerman (A-T) Elbow Score, Mayo Elbow Performance Score (MEPS), Single Assessment Numeric Evaluation (SANE) score, and a custom RTP questionnaire.
Included were 22 male baseball players with a mean age of 18.9 ± 2.1 years (range, 16-25 years). The mean follow-up was 6.1 ± 2.4 years (range, 2.5-11.7 years). Preoperatively, all 22 patients reported ulnar nerve sensory symptoms, while 4 (18.2%) patients reported ulnar nerve motor symptoms. At the final follow-up, 7 (31.8%) patients reported persistent ulnar nerve sensory symptoms, while none of the patients reported persistent ulnar nerve motor symptoms. Overall, 16 (72.7%) players were able to return to competitive play at an average of 11.2 months. The mean postoperative patient-reported outcome scores for the KJOC Shoulder and Elbow Score, MEPS, A-T Elbow Score, and SANE score were 77.9 ± 20.9 (range, 14-100), 92.7 ± 12.7 (range, 45-100), 86.1 ± 17.1 (range, 30-100), and 85.5 ± 14.8 (range, 50-100), respectively.
This study demonstrated that after concomitant UCLR and UNT for UCL insufficiency and associated ulnar neuritis, baseball players can expect reasonably high RTP rates and subjective outcomes; however, rates of persistent sensory ulnar neuritis can be as high as 30%.