An Overview on Tommy John Surgery
Throwing athletes are at significantly increased risk of ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) injury. The UCL is located on the inner (medial) portion of the elbow joint and is responsible for connecting the ulna (forearm bone) to the humerus (upper arm bone). Tears of the ligament occur under extreme stress or chronic overuse and lead to pain and instability of the elbow. If this occurs, Dr. Jervis Yau, orthopedic elbow surgeon serving the Santa Barbara, Goleta, Santa Maria and Ventura, California communities, may recommend an ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction, otherwise known as Tommy John Surgery.
Tommy John Surgery was first performed in 1974 on Major League Baseball (MLB) pitcher Tommy John. Tommy John was the first professional athlete to undergo this procedure with a successful return to pitching. Ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction has advanced over the years and is now one of the most common procedures performed in baseball pitchers.
During the procedure, a new tendon (either the palmaris longus or gracilis) is weaved over the torn UCL and attached to the humerus and ulna in order to restore medial elbow stability. Once healed, gradual return to throwing activities will be allowed after forearm strength has been restored.
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Recovery and Rehabilitation Following Tommy John Surgery
Following Tommy John Surgery, patients will be placed in a splint for 7 to 10 days to protect the repair. Physical therapy will be initiated to regain motion to the elbow in the first phase. Strength progression and throwing mechanics will be addressed once the range of motion is fully achieved and is maintained for several months before the patient is allowed to throw.
Tommy John Surgery Recovery Time
If rehabilitation guidelines are strictly followed after ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction, many patients can expect a return to normal activities and sports within 4 to 6 months. However, pitchers and other overhead throwers will often require approximately one year before they can get back to throwing at full speed.
For additional resources on ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction, otherwise known as Tommy John Surgery, please contact the orthopedic office of elbow surgeon Dr. Jervis Yau located in the Santa Barbara, Goleta, Santa Maria and Ventura, California area.