images-12Only one day after going on the DL with what was purported to be a muscle strain of the flexor tendons attaching at the inner elbow (medial epicondylitis), a contrast MRI revealed that Joba Chamberlain has a ligament tear that will likely require Tommy John surgery.

Though reported that Yankee brass professed surprised at the severity of the injury, when a pitcher has significant medial elbow pain, a tear of the ulnar (medial) collateral ligament (UCL) is generally suspected.

As discussed in yesterday’s Injury Breakdown post, symptoms of an Ulnar Collateral tear, medial epicondylitis and  irritation  or entrapment of the ulnar nerve share many similarities.  When it is an overhead athlete doing the complaining – particularly a pitcher who must put repetitive stress on the inner elbow – a tear is one likely culprit.  What is remarkable however, is the success with which Joba pitched while injured.

Comparing these diagrams will help you to see the intimate relationship of the ulnar collateral ligament and the tendons that were initially suspected of causing Chamberlain’s pain..

Elbow Ligaments

Flexor Tendons at the Medial Epicondyle

Take a look at  an Injury Breakdown post from August of 2010, on then 22-year-old Nationals phenom Stephen Strasburg, to learn more about UCL tears and the Tommy John procedure.

Follow Abby on Twitter @abcsims.

About the author

Abby serves as the Injury Expert for CBS New York where, since 2010, her Injury Breakdown Blog examines injuries in professional sports. She also blogs on health & fitness as well as sports injuries for Huffington Post, and Recovery Physical, where her blog earned a top ten mention for physical therapy blogs in 2012 @ In a ranking of the Top 30 Healthcare Blogs for 2012, Top Masters in Healthcare also rated Abby’s blog in the top three in Physical Therapy! Abby is the founder of Fit-Screen and she welcomes your comments and questions!