What is Tommy John surgery?

THE NUMBER of Major League Baseball players requiring surgery for a torn ligament has increased to 13 percent since 1973.

The injury is located in their arm and has required Tommy John surgery for more than 500 players since the procedure was first performed.

What is Tommy John surgery?

Tommy John surgery, more commonly called ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) reconstruction, is an injury that typically affects sports players.

As the number of individuals participating in sports increases, more players are encountering these injuries.

The surgery is commonly needed for baseball players or javelin throwers because of the repeated throwing motion required in the sport.

When the player continues to throw, stress is caused in the collateral ligament which stabilizes their elbow but repetitive motion can cause the ligament to deteriorate over time, resulting in UCL.

If this occurs, the throwing motion will cause extreme pain and may require Tommy John surgery if they aren't responding well to standard nonsurgical treatment.

The surgery is carried out by replacing the patient's torn ligament with a skin graft that will allow a new ligament to grow.

The recovery time may take six to nine months, possibly longer, for the individual to fully recover and return to their sport.

What are the symptoms?

According to the Raleigh Surgery Center, common symptoms include:

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  • Pain on the inside of the elbow
  • Decreased stability
  • Tingling in your ring and pinky
  • Irritation or discomfort of your funny bone (or ulnar nerve)
  • Unable to throw at full ability
  • Swelling on the inside of your elbow
  • Weak hand grip

Why is it called Tommy John surgery?

Tommy John surgery is named after a former baseball player who suffered from UCL.

Tommy John was a pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1974 when he tore his UCL and became the first person to undergo surgery.

He played Major League Baseball from 1963 to 1989, and when the reconstructive surgery to fix his ligament was successful, it was named after him.

The number of surgeries MLB players have undergone has increased overr the years.

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From 1974 to 1994, 12 surgeries were performed, whereas 194 were performed from 2000 to 2011, according to Ortho Bethesda.

As of 2021, more than 500 baseball players have had Tommy John surgery.

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