Performance, Return to Play, and Career Longevity After Ulnar Collateral Ligament Reconstruction in Professional Catchers.

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Arthroscopy : the journal of arthroscopic & related surgery : official publication of the Arthroscopy Association of North America and the International Arthroscopy Association


PURPOSE: The purpose of our study was to evaluate return to play and postinjury performance of professional catchers who sustained an ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) rupture requiring surgical reconstruction. We looked to evaluate these players to determine the rate of return to play, the level of return to play, and career longevity after surgery as well as how statistical performance is affected by reconstruction.

METHODS: Twenty-five professional catchers who underwent UCL reconstruction between 1985 and 2015 were identified and compared with an age-, position-, and competition-matched control group. Priority was placed on level of play, year of injury, age, and years played prior to injury in matching controls. Injury information and demographic data (age at injury, level of play, and career length) were collected from publicly available team websites and press releases. Offensive and defensive performance statistics were collected for 3 years prior to injury and 3 years after return. Return to play, return to level of play, and career after return were also analyzed.

RESULTS: The average age at time of UCL injury was 24.4 (standard deviation, 4.5) years old. Return to play for all catchers was 80% (20/25), with only one player not returning to the same previous level of play (95%). Average years in Major League Baseball (MLB) after return was 2.3 years versus 2.6 years in the control group (P = .07), with 4.3 years total (MLB and minors) versus 3.8 years total in the control group (P = .28). There were no changes in offensive or defensive performance before and after injury.

CONCLUSIONS: UCL reconstruction in professional catchers can lead to successful outcomes. Catchers can expect a high rate of return to play with high rate of return to previous level of play, similar performance, and no change in career longevity following return from UCL reconstruction.

STUDY DESIGN: Level III, case-control series.

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