Performance and Return to Sport After Thumb Ulnar Collateral Ligament Repair in Major League Baseball Players

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13 Scopus citations


Background: Acute ruptures of the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) of the thumb are common injuries in sports. Surgical repair has yielded excellent results and high return-to-sport (RTS) rates in elite athletes. Purpose: To determine (1) the RTS rate in Major League Baseball (MLB) players following thumb UCL repair, (2) postoperative career length and games played per season, (3) pre- and postoperative performance, (4) postoperative performance compared with matched control players, and (5) whether dominant and nondominant hand injuries respond differently. Study Design: Cohort study; Level of evidence, 3. Methods: MLB players who underwent thumb UCL surgery from August 3, 1987, to September 6, 2016, were identified. Demographic and performance data were collected for each player, and matched controls were identified. RTS in the MLB was defined as playing in at least 1 MLB game after surgery. Comparisons were made by use of paired-samples Student t tests. Results: Twenty-one players were identified, with a mean ± SD age of 31.7 ± 3.9 years and mean experience in the MLB of 8.6 ± 3.3 years at time of surgery. Twenty-one players (100%) achieved RTS in the MLB at a mean 120.0 ± 75.9 days. No significant decrease was found in games per season or career length for any position following surgery. Infielders had a significantly lower rate of postoperative wins above replacement (WAR) compared with preoperatively (P =.006), but no significant differences in postoperative performance score were found compared with controls after the index date. No significant difference was found for performance between players undergoing surgery on their dominant hand and those who had surgery on their nondominant (glove) hand compared with controls. Conclusion: In this study, 100% of MLB players achieved RTS after thumb UCL repair, with in-season players returning at a mean of 8 weeks. Players who underwent thumb UCL repair played in a similar number of games per season and had similar career lengths in the MLB as controls. Infielders had a significantly lower postoperative WAR compared with preoperatively, but no significant postoperative performance score differences were noted when infielders were compared with post–index date matched controls. No significant performance differences were noted with regard to surgery on dominant and nondominant hands.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalOrthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2018


  • MLB
  • baseball
  • return to sport
  • surgery
  • thumb UCL

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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