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Procedure - Tommy John Surgery

If you lead an athletic lifestyle that wears on the arms and elbows, you may inevitably damage them and need surgical care. Ogden Clinic specialists across Utah offer patients Tommy John Surgery to repair damaged or injured elbow ligaments. This surgery is also referred to as an ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) reconstruction. Tommy John Surgery was named after the former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Tommy John, who underwent the first UCL reconstruction surgery in 1974.

What is the Ulnar Collateral Ligament and How Does it Get Injured?

The ulnar collateral ligament is located on the inside of the elbow, where it connects the humerus (upper arm bone) to the ulna (forearm bone).

The UCL can become damaged from repetitive stress or trauma. Throwers often experience UCL injuries because the repetitive twisting and bending motion puts the ligament under extreme stress. As these motions continue, the ligament can develop both small and large tears, from the ligament stretching and lengthening, to the point where it’s no longer holding the bones in place tightly enough. People who participate in variety of sports often experience UCL injuries including those who play tennis, soccer, softball, baseball, football, wrestling, cheerleading, and do gymnastics.

Symptoms of a UCL Injury

If you have a UCL injury you may experience:

  • Instability or a feeling of looseness in the elbow
  • Pain on the inside of the elbow
  • Decreased ability to throw a ball or other object
  • Tingling or numbness in the pinky and ring finger, as the result of an irritated ulnar nerve

How It Works

To repair the torn ligament, your doctor will take a tendon from another place in your body such as the wrist, hip, knee, foot, toe, thigh, or forearm. In some cases, a tendon can be used from a donor who has passed away. The doctor will then drill tunnels in the ulna and humerus bones to create space for the tendon, also called a graft, to pass through. The doctor will weave the graft into a figure-eight pattern to reconstruct the ligament and attach any remnants of the original ligament to the new tendon. After surgery, you will need to undergo rehabilitation to strengthen the ligament. Recovery time from Tommy John Surgery takes approximately one year, but for some patients, it can take up to two years for them to return to their previous level of athletic ability.

Have you suffered a UCL injury? If you require UCL reconstruction, come to Ogden Clinic in Utah for Tommy John Surgery. Contact us today to schedule your appointment.

Brett  Richards, MD, Orthopedics, Hand & Upper Extremity,  Professional Center South

Richards, Brett, MD
4700 Harrison Blvd.
Ogden, UT