What Is a Tommy John Surgery and When Do You Need It?

Elbow Pain

Any baseball fan will be familiar with the term “Tommy John surgery,” but did you know that this operation is used for more than baseball injuries? Tommy John surgery is the common name for ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) reconstruction surgery due to its association with a famous baseball player by the same name.

The UCL is a ligament on the inside of the elbow that connects your upper arm to your lower arm at the elbow joint. The UCL can tear due to strain, overuse and traumatic injury. Because baseball players throw balls at fast speeds, they are likely to strain their UCL in this manner.

How to tell if you’ve torn your UCL

A torn UCL is painful and limits the use of your arm and elbow. Symptoms of a torn UCL include:

  • A popping sensation at the time of injury
  • Swelling along the inside of the elbow near the forearm
  • Stiffness and pain in the elbow when trying to straighten the arm
  • Weakened grip strength
  • Tingling in the hand

If you recognize any of these symptoms, you may have a torn UCL. Visit your doctor for an examination and diagnosis to confirm the cause of your pain and begin seeking appropriate treatment.

Repairing a torn UCL with Tommy John surgery

Repairing the UCL requires Tommy John surgery. The goal of this surgery is to repair damaged tissue in the arm and elbow or to completely replace it with healthy tissue.

Often, Tommy John surgery is performed as a minimally invasive arthroscopic procedure. During this procedure, a surgeon inserts a tiny camera attached to a tube into your arm so they can view the operation area through a monitor. This enables surgeons to make minimal incisions for viewing and inserting surgical instruments, which lowers the risks of complications and improves the quality of your recovery.

In cases where the ligament is entirely separated from the bone, surgeons may perform an open procedure instead. This is to provide them with better access to the entire ligament to remove it and replace it with healthy tissue from another part of your body.

Visit the iRISE Spine and Joint Institute for Tommy John surgery

Whether you’re a baseball player who needs to get back into the game or someone who had an unfortunate accident and injured their arm, if you’ve torn your UCL, you should consider Tommy John's surgery. Contact us today to talk to our team about Tommy John surgery or to schedule an initial appointment.