Tommy John Surgery Saving Baseball Pitching Careers

A Tommy John injury and subsequent surgery is an increasingly common occurrence in athletes who play sports that involve throwing. Hundreds of athletes involved in performance sports, mostly baseball players, have been affected by the injury.

The condition and treatment were named after Thomas Edward John Jr. who was a major league left-handed pitcher that blew out his elbow in a 1974 game. The revolutionary surgical procedure saved his arm and Tommy John went on to effectively play until his retirement in 1989.

How the Injury Occurs

Athletes that use a great deal of overhead arm movements (i.e. baseball, football or tennis) are place a lot of stress on themselves to improve. However, they also place a lot of stress on the tendons in their arms, which can cause debilitating injuries, especially to the elbow joint. The human arm is not designed to move overhead, and increased or prolonged stress can damage the elbow as well as shoulder joint.

There are three bones that meet at the elbow, the humerus (upper arm bone), ulna (large ‘pinky’ side bone), and radius (smaller thumb side bone). Two ligaments, the ulnar (medial) collateral and lateral collateral, combine to tie these bones together into what is called a capsule. The ligament capsule forms a sealed pouch around the elbow joint containing synovial fluid which acts as a lubricant. A tear of these ligaments can disrupt elbow performance by dislodging bone attachments and decreasing important joint lubrication.

Tommy John injuries normally occur during a single event that traumatically affects the victim. The injury usually results from an extended period of extreme stress on the elbow ligaments. Too much activity as well as poor operational technique and physical mechanics present the most risk for this type of injury.

How the Procedure Works

The Tommy John surgical procedure is medically known as UCL, or ulnar collateral ligament, reconstruction. In this procedure, surgeons perform a surgical graft utilizing a tendon removed from another part of the patient’s body to replace a damaged ligament in the patient’s elbow.

Tommy John surgery requires an incision in the elbow area that exposes the affected bones and ligaments. Small holes are drilled into the humerus and ulna bones where the harvested tendon is attached. The harvested tendon is usually taken from the same forearm, opposite elbow, a knee, or cadaver. The tendon is woven through the drilled holes in a figure eight pattern and anchored. Pitchers require rehabilitation of around a year while other positional players only require approximately six months recovery time. Normal throwing usually occurs around 16 weeks after the surgery.

The athlete making a complete recovery from Tommy John surgery has risen to a success rate of over 90 percent today. This is excellent news for those seeking to pursue a career in baseball and similar sports where a great amount of overhead stress is placed on the elbow.

A Tommy John injury and subsequent surgery is an increasingly common occurrence in athletes who play sports that involve throwing. Hundreds of athletes involved in performance sports, mostly baseball players, have been affected by the injury.

The condition and treatment were named after Thomas Edward John Jr. who was a major league left-handed pitcher that blew out his elbow in a 1974 game. The revolutionary surgical procedure saved his arm and Tommy John went on to effectively play until his retirement in 1989.

How the Injury Occurs

Athletes that use a great deal of overhead arm movements (i.e. baseball, football or tennis) are place a lot of stress on themselves to improve. However, they also place a lot of stress on the tendons in their arms, which can cause debilitating injuries, especially to the elbow joint. The human arm is not designed to move overhead, and increased or prolonged stress can damage the elbow as well as shoulder joint.

There are three bones that meet at the elbow, the humerus (upper arm bone), ulna (large ‘pinky’ side bone), and radius (smaller thumb side bone). Two ligaments, the ulnar (medial) collateral and lateral collateral, combine to tie these bones together into what is called a capsule. The ligament capsule forms a sealed pouch around the elbow joint containing synovial fluid which acts as a lubricant. A tear of these ligaments can disrupt elbow performance by dislodging bone attachments and decreasing important joint lubrication.

Tommy John injuries normally occur during a single event that traumatically affects the victim. The injury usually results from an extended period of extreme stress on the elbow ligaments. Too much activity as well as poor operational technique and physical mechanics present the most risk for this type of injury.

How the Procedure Works

The Tommy John surgical procedure is medically known as UCL, or ulnar collateral ligament, reconstruction. In this procedure, surgeons perform a surgical graft utilizing a tendon removed from another part of the patient’s body to replace a damaged ligament in the patient’s elbow.

Tommy John surgery requires an incision in the elbow area that exposes the affected bones and ligaments. Small holes are drilled into the humerus and ulna bones where the harvested tendon is attached. The harvested tendon is usually taken from the same forearm, opposite elbow, a knee, or cadaver. The tendon is woven through the drilled holes in a figure eight pattern and anchored. Pitchers require rehabilitation of around a year while other positional players only require approximately six months recovery time. Normal throwing usually occurs around 16 weeks after the surgery.

The athlete making a complete recovery from Tommy John surgery has risen to a success rate of over 90 percent today. This is excellent news for those seeking to pursue a career in baseball and similar sports where a great amount of overhead stress is placed on the elbow.

This injury made it onto our worst sports injuries video database! Check out the rest of the entries here, and see how many you can get through without cringing!

Trust Baxter and Walsh Physical Therapy to help you recover and thrive after an injury. We have three locations on Long Island to serve you: Wantagh, Bay Shore, and Amityville. Visit our contact page to schedule an appointment today.

References

1. http://www.methodistorthopedics.com/ulnar-collateral-ligament-reconstruction-tommy-johnsurgery

References

1. http://www.methodistorthopedics.com/ulnar-collateral-ligament-reconstruction-tommy-johnsurgery