A surgery popularized by the former pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Tommy John, is changing the nature of elbow injuries for today’s athlete. What were once considered career ending injuries – ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) tears – are now managed with this surgical procedure developed to return athletes to their sport.
Known to physicians as UCL Reconstruction, the goal of the one-hour procedure is to replace the damaged ligament of the medial elbow and replace it with a tendon from, either the patient’s forearm, hamstring or foot.
The rehabilitation and reconditioning program that follows is extensive. And it is an essential part of the overall treatment for athletes.
Tommy John was the first professional athlete with an elbow injury to undergo the surgery and return to pitching. And today nearly 90 percent of those undergoing the surgery are expected to make a complete recovery.
The surgery is also used in some cases to treat medial epicondylitis (Golfer’s Elbow) and lateral epicondylitis (Tennis Elbow).