Tommy John Surgery

Joint Replacement Odessa TXSince the baseball season just got underway, it seems an applicable time for a blog about a surgery made famous by a baseball player. Tommy John Surgery is now the colloquial term for ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) reconstruction. You can see why Tommy John Surgery has caught on as the preferred name.

Since we deal with sports injuries every day at Urgent Orthopedic Specialists (although we don’t perform Tommy John Surgery), we thought we’d shed some light on this commonly referred to injury/surgery on the diamond.

What is Tommy John Surgery?

Tommy John Surgery is used to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament. This is the ligament in the elbow. In the surgery, the ligament is replaced with a tendon taken from elsewhere on the patient’s body. The goal of the surgery is to stabilize the elbow, reduce or eliminate pain, and restore range of motion.

If you’re wondering why it got the name Tommy John Surgery, it’s because he was the first baseball player to have the surgery and successfully return to the game.

Who injures this ligament?

The ulnar collateral ligament is on the inner side of the elbow joint, and its job is to help secure the joint. This injury is typical with athletes who play throwing sports. 

How this surgery is done

The tendon to be used is harvested from various parts of the body (or it can come from a donor), typically the forearm, hamstring, or big toe extensor tendon. An incision is made on the outside of the elbow, and the muscles and other tissues are moved aside. Damaged tissue is removed, although sometimes the remnants of the original ligament are left in place and attached to the tendon graft to add reinforcement.

Holes are drilled in the upper arm bone and the lower arm bone. The graft tendon is threaded through these holes and secured with sutures, buttons, or screws.

Now you can impress your friends when watching the next Rangers’ game by telling them all about Tommy John Surgery. Short of tearing your UCL, the team at Urgent Orthopedic Specialists can help you with pains caused by other injuries with your elbow.

If you are experiencing pain in the elbow or any of your joints, give us a call at our Midland office, (432) 520-3020, to make an appointment.

Posted in: General Orthopedics, Joint Pain & Replacement

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