This article is part of our Injury Analysis series.
Anatomical and medical terminology is often very straightforward to help minimize confusion and create a shared language among medical professionals. Words utilized to describe the various structures of the body are often based on positioning and direction, resulting in precise designations. For example, the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) gets its name because it crosses (think crucifix) in front of its counterpart, the PCL. However, occasionally shared terminology can cause some confusion, as structures located in different joints can possess the same name. This exact scenario happened in Week 2 with two Pro Bowl quarterbacks.
Both Brees and Roethlisberger suffered significant damage to an ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in their upper extremities. However, their expected recovery times widely vary, as each quarterback tore a UCL in a different joint.
The name UCL is applied to a ligament when it sits on the lateral (outside) of the upper extremity on the same side as the ulna bone of the lower arm. The UCL runs parallel with the opposite collateral ligament, providing support to the side of its respective joint. Ligaments that carry the UCL tag are located in the elbow, wrist, thumb and fingers.
In New Orleans, Brees tore the UCL in his right thumb. The UCL in this location helps stabilize the base of the thumb at a joint known as the metacarpophalangeal (MCP) joint. The UCL of the thumb is the primary stabilizer and sits on the inside of the thumb, near the webbing of