Are Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL) Injuries on the Rise?

Are Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL) Injuries on the Rise?

By: Ernie Smith

We know that the average velocity of fastballs is increasing in Major League Baseball (MLB), that injuries have been on a dramatic rise over time, and that people working in the training industry and medical professions tend to work in silos.  Eugene Bleecker who is the founder and director of player development for a company named 108 Performance, in California, spoke at the Texas Baseball Ranch elite pitching coach’s clinic in December of 2020.  He said that the areas of motor learning, skill acquisition, kinesiology, anatomy, and biomechanics have been “working in silos” and that we “should be looking at ways of fusing these areas” in training.  I agree with Mr. Bleecker 100% and that’s a significant reason we founded the Illinois Baseball Edge, Ltd. (IBE).

If you happen to be a bit skeptical of the injury reporting that is going on, or perhaps are of the opinion that companies like ours are trying to scare people into training programs, below please find some references that may change your mind:

  • 37% increase in injuries from ’05-’08 (Posner AJSM 2011)
  • 10x increase in TJS among youth (Dr. James Andrews, to my knowledge the foremost TJS surgeon)
  • +193% UCL in NY State from ’02-’11 (Dr. Ahmad, Yankees, AJSM ‘16)

The correlation between velocity and stress has also been shown:

  • High School – Hurd: Sports Health ‘12
  • Professional – Bushnell: AJSM ‘10

Here is a graph over time illustrating incidence of TJS from a study in 2018 that shows MLB in orange, the minor leagues in green, and college baseball in blue:

Even though I’ve been involved with baseball and softball my entire life, have been consistently coaching since the summer of 1980, and was aware that injuries were increasing over time, I did not know that the problem in baseball was this deeply seated.  Upon discovering the extent of the problem, I made the decision to take a year off of my primary day job in the computer industry and focus upon studying the issue and what could be done about it.  As I said in my initial blog post, “… we can be successful in enhancing performance and reducing the risk of injury.”  Throughout this web site you will find related information and of course our staff will be happy to help if you wish to work with us directly.

Ernie Smith, Founder and CEO, Illinois Baseball Edge, Ltd.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith, aka “Smitty”, founded the Illinois Baseball Edge, Ltd. in 2021. His coaching career began long before that in the summer of 1980, and continues to evolve today with over 110 seasons of experience (if one counts Spring, Summer, and Fall separately). His focus upon long term player development and performance enhancement, with measurable results, is an approach not often found in baseball or softball and has led to some significant milestones. In recent years that approach has blended well with the evolution of player centric training methods including hyper personalization.
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