Am I a Candidate for Tommy John Surgery?

Tommy John surgery is a procedure to repair a torn ligament on the inside of the elbow. It’s also called ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) reconstruction. Tommy John surgery is named after the first person to undergo this innovative orthopaedic surgery : Dodgers pitcher, Tommy John, who had the surgery in 1974. The orthopaedic surgeon who developed this technique harvested a tendon from elsewhere in the body, and attached it to the elbow area to replace the damaged UCL.

You’re experiencing symptoms of UCL overuse.

An acute UCL tear can cause a popping sound, accompanied by pain at the inside of the elbow. You may also experience pain in this area after doing overhead activities or throwing activities for a prolonged period of time. If you’re doing throwing activities, the pain may worsen as you accelerate your arm forward. Additionally, patients with UCL tears report tingling and numbness in the ring and little fingers.

You’ve been diagnosed with an overuse UCL injury.

Not everyone who sustains a sports injury of the elbow is a good candidate for Tommy John surgery. Typically, it’s recommended for individuals who suffer UCL damage due to overuse, or repetitive strain, as opposed to UCL tears caused by a sudden, traumatic event. Baseball pitchers are at a high risk of UCL tears because of the considerable force exerted on the elbow structures every time they throw a baseball. Other individuals may suffer a UCL injury because of repetitive movements required for their jobs.

You’ve already tried conservative treatment options.

Orthopaedic doctors usually recommend nonsurgical treatment options first. However, surgery may be considered if the following steps haven’t been effective:

  • Rest
  • Cold therapy
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Physical therapy

The benefits of having the surgery outweigh the risks.

The average person might not necessarily benefit much from Tommy John surgery, since a UCL tear doesn’t normally inhibit everyday activities. But if you’re an athlete, or your occupation requires a strong UCL, then the benefits of having surgery may outweigh the risks. Share your medical history with your surgeon, and be fully informed of the potential risks of surgery before making a decision.

Orthopaedic surgery as delicate and complex as Tommy John surgery requires the touch of a skillful, experienced surgeon, whom you’ll find at MK Orthopaedics . Our specialists are known as leading experts in their field. Call (815) 741-6900 to request an appointment with one of our orthopaedic doctors in Joliet.

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