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BACKGROUND: A recently introduced classification of medial ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) tears has demonstrated high interobserver and intraobserver reliability, but little is known about its prognostic utility. The purpose of this study was to assess the relationship of the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)-based classification system and nonoperative vs. operative management. Secondary objectives included subanalysis of baseball players. METHODS: Eighty-five consecutive patients with UCL tears after a standardized treatment paradigm were categorized as operative vs. nonoperative. UCL tears of patients with a minimum of 1-year follow-up were retrospectively classified using the MRI-based classification system. Subanalyses for baseball players included return-to-play and return-to-prior performance. RESULTS: A total of 80 patients (62 baseball players, 54 pitchers) met inclusion criteria. A total of 51 patients underwent surgery, and 29 patients completed nonoperative management. In baseball players, 59% of the proximal tears were treated nonoperatively and 97% of the distal tears were treated operatively; 100% of the proximal partial-thickness tears and 100% of the distal complete tears were treated nonoperatively and operatively, respectively. Patients with distal (odds ratio: 48.4, P < .0001) and complete (odds ratio: 5.0, P = .004) tears were more likely to undergo surgery. Baseball players, regardless of position, were determinants of operative management, and there was no difference in return-to-play clearance and return-to-prior performance between the operative and nonoperative groups. CONCLUSION: A reliable 6-stage MRI-based classification addressing UCL tear grade and location may confer decision making between operative and nonoperative management. Complete and distal tears carry a markedly increased risk of failing nonoperative care compared with proximal, partial tears.

Original publication




Journal article


J shoulder elbow surg

Publication Date





1159 - 1165


MRI, UCL, classification, nonoperative, operative, tear, ulnar collateral ligament, Adult, Athletic Injuries, Baseball, Clinical Decision-Making, Collateral Ligament, Ulnar, Conservative Treatment, Elbow Joint, Follow-Up Studies, Humans, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Prognosis, Retrospective Studies, Young Adult