Ulnar Collateral Ligament Reconstruction in Adolescents: A Systematic Review

Christopher J Hadley, David Edelman, Alfonso Arevalo, Nimit Patel, Michael G Ciccotti, Christopher C Dodson
American Journal of Sports Medicine 2021, 49 (5): 1355-1362

BACKGROUND: Ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) reconstruction is an established surgical technique to restore UCL deficiency, especially in the overhead throwing athlete. Over the past decade, the number of patients requiring UCL reconstruction has increased significantly, particularly in the adolescent patient population. Return-to-play rates after UCL reconstruction reported in the literature have ranged from 33% to 92%, and a recent systematic review noted a return-to-play rate of 89.40% in all high school athletes.

PURPOSE: To evaluate the outcomes, particularly return-to-play rates and subjective outcome scores, of UCL reconstruction of the elbow in adolescent throwing athletes.

STUDY DESIGN: Systematic review.

METHODS: A systematic review of the literature was conducted via the electronic databases Embase, PubMed, and Cochrane. Studies that reported on outcomes, particularly return-to-play rates, in adolescent throwing athletes met the inclusion criteria and were included in our analysis. Studies that did not report on adolescent throwing athletes and studies that reported on adolescent throwing athletes but did not specify the return-to-play outcomes for these athletes were excluded from our analysis.

RESULTS: Nine studies met the inclusion criteria and were included in this review. There were 404 baseball players and 10 javelin throwers included in our analysis. A total of 349 of the 414 patients (84.30%) were successfully able to return to play at the same level of competition or higher. Successful rates of return to prior performance ranged from 66.67% to 91.49% in our analysis. Javelin throwers had a mean 80.00% rate of return to prior performance, while baseball players had a mean return-to-play rate of 84.40%. Complications were evaluated for 8 (88.9%) studies and 283 (68.4%) patients. There were 11 (3.9%) reported complications and 5 (1.8%) reoperations.

CONCLUSION: The findings of this systematic review revealed that adolescent patients are generally able to return to their preinjury level of performance or higher with limited complications. Further investigation is necessary to determine long-term outcomes for return to play after UCL reconstruction of the elbow in adolescent throwing athletes.

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