Short-Term Trends in Elbow Ulnar Collateral Ligament Surgery in Collegiate Baseball Players: An Analysis of 25,587 Player-Years

Academic Article


  • Background: Trends over time in the incidence of ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) surgeries in National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I baseball players are currently unknown. Purpose/Hypothesis: The purpose of this study was to evaluate the trends in UCL surgeries over 3 years in Division I baseball programs. We hypothesized that surgical injuries would be consistently high over the course of the study. Study Design: Descriptive epidemiology study. Methods: Athletic trainers from Division I baseball programs were invited to participate in an electronic survey over 3 seasons. A total of 155 baseball programs agreed to participate in 2017, 294 programs participated in 2018, and 296 programs participated in 2019. After each of the 3 collegiate baseball seasons, the athletic trainer from each program entered anonymous, detailed descriptive data and surgical information on injured players into a secured database. Results: During the 3 years of this study, 100% of the enrolled programs successfully completed the survey (155/155 in year 1, 294/294 in year 2, and 296/296 in year 3). This registry of 745 completed surveys over 3 years represented 25,587 player-years from Division I collegiate baseball. The percentage of programs with at least 1 UCL surgery during this time was 57% in 2017, 51% in 2018, and 49% in 2019. The majority of these players were pitchers (84% overall from the 3 years). Seniors underwent a significantly lower percentage of the UCL surgeries (8% in 2017, 10% in 2018, and 13% in 2019) than did underclassmen. Surgeries were performed most often in-season and least often during the preseason. A slight majority of players undergoing surgery originated from warm-weather states, but the number of these players was never significantly higher than was the number of players from cold-weather states. Most surgeries performed each year were UCL reconstruction, but the percentage of UCL repair with ligament augmentation increased each year (10% UCL repairs in 2017, 20% in 2018, and 25% in 2019). Conclusion: UCL injuries requiring surgery were found to be a major source of morbidity in Division I collegiate baseball, supporting our hypothesis. This study can serve as a baseline for tracking long-term trends in UCL surgeries in collegiate baseball.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Rothermich MA; Fleisig GS; Conte SA; Hart KM; Cain EL; Dugas JR
  • Volume

  • 9
  • Issue

  • 7