Incidence of Elbow Ulnar Collateral Ligament Surgery in Collegiate Baseball Players

Academic Article


  • Background: Recent reports have highlighted the progressive increase in the incidence of ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) injuries to the elbow in baseball players of all levels. However, knowledge of the incidence and other epidemiological factors regarding UCL injuries, specifically in college baseball players, is currently lacking. Purpose: To evaluate, over a period of 1 year, the incidence of UCL injuries requiring surgery in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I baseball programs. Study Design: Descriptive epidemiology study. Methods: A total of 155 Division I collegiate baseball programs agreed to participate in the study. Demographics (position, year, background [location of high school]) for all players on these rosters were obtained from public websites. At the conclusion of the 2017 collegiate baseball season, the athletic trainer for each program entered anonymous, detailed information on injured players through an electronic survey into a secured database. Results: All 155 teams enrolled in the study completed the electronic survey. Of the 5295 collegiate baseball players on these rosters, 134 underwent surgery for an injured UCL (2.5% of all eligible athletes), resulting in a team surgery rate of 0.86 per program for 1 year. These 134 players came from 88 teams, thus 56.8% of the study teams underwent at least 1 surgery during the year. The surgery rate was 2.5 per 100 player-seasons for all players and was significantly higher among pitchers (4.4/100 player-seasons) than nonpitchers (0.7/100 player-seasons). The surgery rate was also significantly higher in underclassmen (3.1/100 player-seasons among freshmen and sophomores) than upperclassmen (1.9/100 player-seasons among juniors and seniors) (incidence rate ratio, 1.7; 95% CI, 1.1-2.4). Players from traditionally warm-weather states did not undergo UCL surgery at a significantly different rate from players from traditionally cold-weather states (2.7/100 player-seasons vs 2.1/100 player-seasons, respectively). Nearly half of surgeries (48.5%) were performed during the baseball season. Conclusion: The incidence of UCL surgeries in NCAA Division I collegiate baseball players represents substantial morbidity to this young athletic population. Risk factors for injuries requiring surgery include being a pitcher and an underclassman. Awareness of these factors should be considered in injury prevention programs. Furthermore, this initial study can serve as a foundation for tracking these surgical injuries in future years and then identifying trends over time.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Rothermich MA; Conte SA; Aune KT; Fleisig GS; Cain EL; Dugas JR
  • Volume

  • 6
  • Issue

  • 4