Functional classification of the medial ulnar collateral ligament

Open access research article Functional Classification of the Medial Ulnar Collateral Ligament: An In Vivo Kinematic Study With Computer-Aided Design, by Kholinne, Zulkarnain, Lee, Adikrishna, & Jeon, Orth. J. Sports Med. (2018).


It has been widely accepted that the anterior and posterior bundles of the medial ulnar collateral ligament (MUCL) tighten at extension and flexion, respectively. However, this belief is based on anatomic data acquired from cadaveric studies. The advancement of 3-dimensional (3D) model technology has made possible the simulation of dynamic movement that includes each ligament bundle fiber to analyze its functional properties. To date, no study has analyzed ligament kinematics at the level of the fibers while also focusing on their functional properties.

To propose a new classification for functional properties of the MUCL based on its kinematic pattern.

Study Design:
Descriptive laboratory study.

Five healthy elbow joints were scanned by use of computed tomography, and 3D models were rendered and translated into vertex points for further mathematical analysis. The humeral origin and ulnar insertion of the MUCL fiber groups were registered. Each vertex point on the origin side was randomly connected to the insertion side, with each pair of corresponding points defined as 1 ligament fiber. Lengths of all the fibers were measured at 1° increments of elbow range of motion (ROM). Ligament fibers were grouped according to their patterns. Mean coverage area for each group, expressed as the percentage of ligament fibers per group to the total number of fibers, was calculated.

Four major bundle groups were found based on fiber length properties. Kinematic simulation showed that each group had a different kinematic function throughout elbow ROM. Mean coverage area of groups 1, 2, 3, and 4 was 8% ± 4%, 10% ± 5%, 42% ± 6%, and 40% ± 8%, respectively. Each group acted as a dominant stabilizer in certain arcs of motion. Reciprocal activity was observed between groups 1 and 3 along with groups 2 and 4 to produce synergistic properties of maintaining elbow stability.

Detailed analysis of fibers of the MUCL allows for further understanding of its kinematic function. This study provides MUCL group coverage area and kinematic function for each degree of motion arc, allowing selective reconstruction of the MUCL according to mechanism of injury.

Clinical Relevance:
Understanding the dominant functional fibers of the MUCL will benefit surgeons attempting MUCL reconstruction and will enhance further anatomic study.

(A) Footprint registration for the humeral and ulnar sides of the medial ulnar collateral ligament using the freeform patch function. (B) Selected areas exported into a cloud of vertex points.