Tommy John Surgery (Ulnar Collateral Ligament Reconstruction)
Tommy John surgery, known as ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) reconstruction, is a specialized type of surgical reconstruction of a torn ulnar collateral ligament. The UCL, located on the inner side of the elbow, helps stabilizes the elbow during movement – particularly throwing motions. When it is torn, it may need to be surgically repaired or reconstructed.
Dr. Scott Brotherton of Orthopedic Specialists is highly experienced in performing this procedure. He trained with Dr. James Andrews, who is renowned for performing UCL surgery on professional athletes.
UCL tears are often associated with acute injuries and repetitive throwing motions. They are prevalent among athletes who play throwing sports like baseball and javelin hurling. In fact, Tommy John surgery is named after a major league baseball pitcher who underwent what was then anexperimental procedure in 1974 and was able to return to competition.
Ulnar Collateral Ligament reconstruction involves replacing an injured tendon with one transplanted from your own body or a donor’s. The tendon graft is typically taken from the hamstring or forearm (palmaris longus tendon).
Tommy John surgery can be performed under general anesthesia and generally takes 60 to 90 minutes. It involves exposure of the medial elbow, drilling holes in the upper arm bone (humerus) and lower arm bone (ulna), looping the new tendon through the holes and securing it. The treated arm will be kept immobile for a period of weeks while the graft heals.
With a dedicated physical therapy regimen and follow-up, many patients can regain their previous range of motion in two to four months. Many throwing-sport athletes can return to competitive play in about a year; however, it’s important to note that individual results will vary.
If you have developed severe elbow pain caused by repetitive motion, or you’ve felt a pop while using your elbow, your Orthopedic Specialists doctor will perform a thorough examination and recommend the best intervention, whether surgical or non-surgical.
To learn whether Tommy John surgery is the best choice for you, contact our office today and schedule an evaluation.