New York Mets Pitcher Sustains Partially Torn Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL)

Sep 19

Yet another pitcher has fallen victim to an elbow injury.  Matt Harvey, a starter for the New York Mets, sustained a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in late August.  One of the few bright spots in an otherwise dull season for the Mets has now dimmed.

Harvey was enjoying a fantastic breakout season, having started this year’s All-Star Game for the National League and was a likely Cy Young candidate.  Now, the pitcher’s season is marred by a finish on the disabled list from an injury that has claimed many before him.

As for what comes next, none of us, including Harvey, is sure.  Most roads lead to the infamous Tommy John surgery, which requires a one-year minimum until a return to action. Harvey’s only other option is to rehabilitate with physical therapy in hopes of avoiding surgery.

While most choose surgery because of its successful outcomes, Adam Wainwright, pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, is the best example of a rehab-only success story after a tear of the UCL.  He had gone an additional six seasons before ultimately undergoing surgery.

For Harvey, it will be a long road if he opts for a ligament reconstruction operation, as it requires one month in an immobilizer before the 10- to 12-month journey of rehabbing the arm to restore range of motion and relearn use of his elbow, wrist and hand.

If he chooses physical therapy only, the initial goal will be to control the pain and inflammation, then correcting any mobility loss in the elbow.  Once the source of the injury is addressed with modalities, stretching and massage, the real work can begin.

Often, this injury will occur from increased loading on the elbow, over-exerting the ligament.  Correcting mechanics at the shoulder, thorax, core and hips has the potential to alleviate the excessive forces placed on the ligament by allowing a sharing of the load throughout the body.

This will be Harvey’s goal, but it will take a lot of work and determination in order for him to start pitching in Spring 2014 instead of Spring 2015.