Tommy John is a former pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers. In 1974 he was the first person to receive an ulnar, elbow ligament, reconstruction surgery. Since then, they named this procedure the Tommy John Surgery as it is used commonly for athletes who have torn their ulnar ligament or UCL. At Dines Orthopedics, we specialize in surgeries on the elbow, sports medicine, and more. If you are looking for an orthopedic surgeon on the Upper East Side, click here to contact us today!
What is your UCL?
The Ulnar Collateral Ligament, more commonly known as your UCL, is the ligament located on the inner side of your elbow. This ligament allows you to perform actions, such as throwing. Tommy John tore his UCL and underwent the first reconstruction surgery on the UCL. As the Ulnar ligament is the only ligament in the elbow, it is crucial to fix this to return your elbow to its full function.
Elbow Ligament Reconstruction Surgery
An elbow ligament reconstruction surgery is a sizeable procedure. The procedure involves harvesting a tendon from another part of the patient’s body or receiving one from a donor to attach as a new tendon. The new tendon will be attached to the bones in the elbow once there are two holes drilled into the bones. The goal of elbow reconstruction surgery is to stabilize and reduce or eliminate the pain the patient is experiencing. Surgery will also restore the range of motion in the elbow and allow the patient to return to all normal activities.
Recovery from Elbow Reconstruction Surgery
After going through an elbow reconstruction surgery, there is a long road to recovery that one has to go through. As this is an outpatient surgery, the same day the patient may return home. Their elbow will be put into a sling brace that is locked at 60 to 90 degrees. The sling brace protects the tissue that is healing and reduces the inflammation in the elbow. Physical therapy will start as soon as possible; patients will begin working on their wrists, fingers, shoulder, and biceps. One to two weeks post-op, patients will begin moving their elbow joint in physical therapy.
After a patient’s first month of post-op, if they have kept up and pushed themselves in physical therapy, they will most likely be at the point of ditching the brace. As you continue to get stronger, you should reach a full extension by the end of your first month. After only two to four months, one should regain a normal range of motion. All of these milestones in the recovery process are great motivators to continue to work hard and push themselves.
However, recovery for athletes may take a little longer. For an athlete to return to their sport, they will usually have to undergo six to nine months to achieve a gradual return. A total of nine to ten months is required, and then an athlete can return to their sport fully.
Who is most common to suffer this injury
A tear in your UCL can happen to anyone, but it is most common in:
- athletes: throwing sports such as baseball
- tears due to overuse
Overuse of any part of the body will always be at a higher risk of any injury. Athletes are always at a higher risk of more severe injury and will usually be the ones who are receiving these sizeable surgeries. In most cases of a severe injury, surgery is the only option an athlete has for them to be able to return to their sport. Surgery allows for a person to get back to their full health and potential. If you have suffered an injury that resulted in a tear in your UCL or any other and is looking for an orthopedic surgeon on the Upper East Side, don’t wait any longer; schedule an appointment with us today.