What is Tommy John Surgery?
Tommy John surgery, also known as ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) reconstruction, is a procedure used to repair a torn ligament inside of the elbow. The surgery is named after the first baseball player to receive the procedure, Major League Baseball pitcher Tommy John. In the middle of a great season in 1974, Tommy John damaged his ulnar collateral ligament. This was once a career-ending injury. He was treated with a new, revolutionary surgery, that was eventually named after the pitcher.
A tear in the ulnar collateral ligament is typically due to sports related activity, but can also be due to repetitive motion, or an accident. If rest, physical therapy and corrected throwing mechanics are not able to alleviate symptoms, this surgery is a good option to stabilize the elbow.
Tommy John Surgery repairs the ulnar collateral ligament by replacing it with a tendon graft from another area in your body. These grafts are taken from your forearm or hamstring to reconstruct the damaged elbow ligament.
Your elbow joint is comprised of the humerus, ulna, and radius bones. The humerus and ulnar in your elbow are supported by the ulnar collateral ligament. So, when this ligament is torn or frayed, your elbow becomes less stable.
Over time, this can lead to a decreased range of motion, stiffness, and consistent pain.
The orthopedic experts at Handsport Surgery Institute, Drs. Mark and Jason Pruzansky, have over 40 years of combined experience to able to treat all forms of elbow pain and other orthopedic conditions.
Drs. Pruzansky have successfully performed surgery on some of the most complex injuries and conditions of the elbow. Their sole goal is to help their patients regain function and comfort following instances of elbow pain or injury.
Why Patients Require Tommy John Surgery
Ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) injuries are common in athletes and people who must complete certain repetitive and forceful movements throughout the day.
Athletes who play throwing sports, such as baseball and football, are especially prone to UCL injuries.
Over time, these athletes may experience an onset of stiffness and pain in their elbow. Arthritis develops. Eventually, the ulnar collateral ligament may tear completely, often resulting in a “pop” as they prepare to throw the ball.
If the injury was not caught early enough, these athletes may have no choice but to undergo a reconstruction surgery to restore mobility and decrease pain in their elbow.
People whose jobs require them to repeat forceful motions of their elbow may be susceptible to UCL injuries and, therefore, may require Tommy John Surgery in the future.
Without the proper form and rest, some athletes may eventually wear and tear their ulnar collateral ligament even without a specific injury incident.
If someone is regularly lifting, pushing, moving, or throwing objects as a part of their job, special care will need to be taken to avoid injury. Learning proper body mechanics may be helpful in these situations.
In some cases, the ulnar collateral ligament in your elbow may experience structural damage from an acute injury or accident. The extent of the damage may be difficult to asses without a professional examination.
This means that a car accident, fall, or hit may damage your UCL without completely tearing it. It’s these cases when seeing a specialist is even more important. Without knowing the extent of their injury, many patients continue to use their elbow until, finally, they become severely impaired.
Recovering from Tommy John Surgery
Tommy John surgery typically requires a patient to wear a supportive brace to hold the elbow in place. Physical will be quickly instituted to minimize muscle atrophy and to maximize function.
Athletes who have undergone Tommy John Surgery to reconstruct their ulnar collateral ligament generally require longer rehab times in order to avoid re-injury.
If You Are Experiencing Elbow Pain, Please Contact Us
Please contact us as soon as possible to schedule an appointment with our talented team. Elbow pain can present in many ways and be caused by many things. Call Dr. Pruzansky at 212-249-8700 to schedule an appointment, obtain an accurate diagnosis, and start to restore comfort to your hand.