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Orthop J Sports Med. 2019 Apr 9;7(4):2325967119836428. doi: 10.1177/2325967119836428. eCollection 2019 Apr.

Epidemiology of Elbow Ulnar Collateral Ligament Injuries in Throwing Versus Contact Athletes of the National Collegiate Athletic Association: Analysis of the 2009-2010 to 2013-2014 Seasons.

Author information

Department of Orthopaedics, Warren Alpert Medical School, Rhode Island Hospital, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, USA.



The management and outcomes of elbow ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) injuries in throwing athletes have been well investigated. However, less is known regarding the management, severity, and outcomes of such injuries in contact athletes.


To compare the incidence, severity, and outcomes of elbow UCL injuries between throwing and contact athletes in collegiate sports.

Study Design:

Descriptive epidemiology study.


Elbow UCL injuries were queried from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Injury Surveillance Program between the seasons of 2009-2010 and 2013-2014 in 25 varsity sports. The rates and distribution of injuries by mechanism, participation restriction time, and outcomes (eg, season-ending injury, surgery) were examined. A severe injury was defined as loss of ≥21 days from participation, a season-ending injury, or requiring a surgical intervention. The injury frequency, incidence per 10,000 athlete-exposures (AEs), and injury proportion ratio comparing throwing and contact athletes were calculated with 95% CIs.


Over the course of 5 seasons, 109 UCL injuries were recorded, for an overall injury rate of 0.29 per 10,000 AEs. Of these injuries, 83 (76.1%) were a result of contact and 26 (23.9%) from throwing. Men's wrestling (1.78 per 10,000 AEs) and men's baseball (1.12 per 10,000 AEs) sustained the highest injury rates. A larger proportion of throwing (n = 8; 36.4%) compared with contact (n = -7; 9.1%) (P < 0.01) injuries results in >21 days of time loss. Additionally, more throwing-related UCL injuries required surgery (n = 2; 11.1%) compared with contact-related injuries (n = 1; 1.3%) (P < 0.01). As a result, throwing athletes demonstrated a significantly higher proportion of severe injuries than contact athletes (injury proportion ratio, 4.62 [95% CI, 1.72-12.40]).


The evaluation of athletes in 25 collegiate varsity sports across 5 seasons found over 3 times more elbow UCL injuries in contact versus throwing athletes. However, the number of severe injuries in throwing athletes was significantly higher than in contact athletes. These findings demonstrate that although elbow UCL injuries are prone to occur in both contact and throwing athletes, their prevention, management, and outcomes must be framed on a sport-by-sport basis.


National Collegiate Athletic Association; contact; elbow; overhead; sport; throwing; ulnar collateral ligament

Conflict of interest statement

One or more of the authors has declared the following potential conflict of interest or source of funding: A.D.G. has received hospitality payments from Axogen. B.D.O. has received consulting fees from DePuy Synthes, Sanofi-Aventis, Linvatec, and MTS and has received hospitality payments from Vericel. AOSSM checks author disclosures against the Open Payments Database (OPD). AOSSM has not conducted an independent investigation on the OPD and disclaims any liability or responsibility relating thereto.

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