• Elbow Pain: What is Tommy John Surgery?

    An orthopaedic surgeon can perform Tommy John surgery, which involves the reconstruction of the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL). The UCL is also known as the medial collateral ligament because the ligament is located on the side of the elbow that’s closest to the body, which is the medial side. Baseball fans are likely to associate Tommy John surgery with Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Tommy John. He underwent the first UCL reconstruction in 1974, which was devised by orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Frank Jobe.

    Reasons for Tommy John Surgery

    A stretched or torn UCL can lead to symptoms such as pain, swelling, and bruising on the inside of the elbow. Sometimes, a UCL tear can lead to some loss of elbow movement. Uneven joint surfaces or loose fragments may cause a popping, grinding, or “catching” sensation. Most often, UCL tears affect pitchers and other athletes who use throwing motions frequently. These repetitive movements can gradually lead to the development of tiny tears in the UCL. Eventually, if left untreated, the UCL may rupture.

    Steps of Tommy John Surgery

    If it is not possible to repair the ligament or reattach it to the bone and the joint is unstable, an orthopaedic surgeon can replace it with a tendon taken from elsewhere in the patient’s body. Most commonly, UCL reconstruction is performed using a tendon from the wrist, toe, hamstring, foot, or other areas. The orthopaedic surgeon drills tunnels in the humerus and the ulna, through which the tendon is passed. Then, the tendon is carefully positioned to take the place of the ligament. Remaining tissue from the original ligament may be attached to the tendon to provide additional strength. After the orthopaedic surgery, the patient can expect an intensive rehabilitation period, which may sometimes take one to two years.

    At MK Orthopaedics , Tommy John surgery and rehabilitation are among our specialties. Our sports medicine specialist in Joliet stays abreast of the latest advances in medical technology to provide our patients with exceptional care. If you’ve suffered a sports injury, call (815) 741-6900 today to begin the process to recovery.

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