What Do You Need to Know about Tommy John Surgery?

What Do You Need to Know about Tommy John Surgery?

You might already have heard of the Tommy John Surgery from various sports news and the like, but do you really have an idea what it really is? If you’re not familiar with this, here is what you need to know about this procedure:

What is the Tommy John Surgery?

The Tommy John Surgery is a popular term derived from a reconstruction surgery for the Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL) . This type of surgery aims to treat elbow injuries. The most common patients are throwing athletes that use their elbows frequently such as baseball pitchers. In fact, Tommy John, a long-time major baseball league pitcher, and spine surgeon NJ, was the first patient to have undergone this now popular procedure – hence the name dedication.

Basically, this surgery repairs damaged or torn UCLs. This ligament is seen inside the elbow and is responsible for keeping the joint inside of it stable. This is a crucial ligament as this connects to other important parts of the body too – the humerus and the ulna. Thus, if it becomes damaged, there’s a possibility that more areas in the body will be affected, and this is not good whether you’re an athlete or not.

Symptoms of a Damaged UCL

Before experiencing its symptoms, the first sign of a damaged UCL is that you’ll hear a pop. Afterward, you’ll immediately have troubles throwing or moving your arm. Plus, you will feel soreness because of the torn ligament. The following are its other common signs:

  • Swelling of the inner elbow and the upper part of the forearm
  • Tingling in the arms, hand, or fingers
  • Elbow not being able to straighten
  • Visible bruises on the elbow area
  • Stiffness of the elbow
  • Weak grip

Why Does This Happen?

The repeated motion of throwing, especially with force, can cause the fibers of the elbow to get stretched and frayed over time. After some time, small tears on the muscles develop, which eventually leads to the rupturing of the ligaments. This is why a lot of athletes have this problem. Even young children with ages as early as 10 experience UCL reconstruction. The more active the lifestyle, the more chances there are in developing elbow injuries.

Surgery Process

Before the surgery, you are asked to rest and do some rehabilitation exercises. You are also going to take anti-inflammatory medications to lessen the swelling and pain. Depending on the severity of the torn ligament, the doctor will decide on what type of surgery you’ll undergo.

A Tommy John procedure could just be as simple as inserting an arthroscope into the elbow. Here, a camera is fitted in to check which part of the ligament needs smoothing. The procedure could also be an open surgery wherein the damaged ligament is replaced by a new tissue taken from another part of the body.

Recovery and Risks

Recovery will depend on how intensely damaged the ligament is. However, it will mostly take a year or two. There are various recovery phases. First, you’ll be wearing a brace for support. Second, you’ll be introduced to physical therapy to improve and strengthen your muscles. Lastly, you’ll be asked to try and extend your arm if the therapist is confident that the ligament is already healed.

There’s no need to get a spine surgeon for undergoing this procedure as it’s not as complicated as it sounds. The risks are low and there’s only a small chance of having infections. All in all, Tommy John surgery is an effective procedure that definitely helps a lot of athletes.

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