UCL injury is an overuse injury of the elbow, most often caused by the repetitive motion of throwing. Pitchers in baseball are especially at risk for this type of injury. Interestly, softball pitchers are not at risk because they pitch underhand. Catchers in both baseball and softball are also at risk.
Tommy John surgery is often performed to the UCL to stabilizer of the elbow. It’s a surgical procedure in which a healthy tendon extracted from an arm (or sometimes a leg) is used to replace the torn ligament. Tommy John surgery usually is recommended only when a UCL has completely torn away from the bone and will not heal on its own. The procedure is a full reconstruction, taking a tendon from your forearm or elsewhere and attaching it as a whole new ligament. The healthy tendon is threaded through holes drilled into the bone above and below the elbow.
The chances of a complete recovery after the modern surgery are estimated at 85 to 90 percent. Rehabilitation takes around 12 to 15 months for pitchers and about 6 months for position players.
So, who was Tommy John for which the surgery is named?
Thomas Edward John Jr., nicknamed Tommy John, is a retired American professional baseball pitcher who played in Major League Baseball (MLB) for 26 seasons between 1963 and 1989. He played for the Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees, California Angels, and Oakland Athletics. He was a four-time MLB All-Star.
John's 288 career victories rank as the seventh-highest total among left-handers in major league history. He had 188 career no decisions, an all-time MLB record among starting pitchers (dating back to at least 1908). He is also known for the surgical procedure ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction, nicknamed "Tommy John surgery", which he underwent in 1974 after damaging the ligament in his throwing arm. John was the first pitcher to receive the operation, and despite a poor outlook initially, he returned to being an effective pitcher, as more than half of his career wins came after his surgery. It has since become a common procedure among baseball pitchers.
For treatment of injuries to the elbow, call the orthopedic surgeons at Ortho El Paso for a consultation. Call 915-249-4000 to schedule your appointment today.