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Tommy John (UCL) SurgeryTommy John (UCL) Surgery

Tommy John surgery refers to a procedure that was credited to a baseball pitcher, who in 1974, was the first to undergo a surgery of this type. He had ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) reconstruction inside the elbow, and successfully returned to his professional baseball career.

Tommy John UCL Reconstruction

UCL is short for ulnar collateral ligament. During UCL reconstructive surgery, also commonly known as Tommy John surgery, the torn ligament inside the elbow is replaced with a tendon taken from either somewhere else in the patient’s body, or from a donor. The surgeon may also, if appropriate, attach remnants of the torn UCL to the graft in order to strengthen it.

Causes of Ulnar Collateral Ligament Injury

The UCL on the inner side of the elbow is most often injured by repetitive stress from overhead arm movements common in sports, such as with repeated throwing. The UCL is the most commonly injured ligament in the elbow, which often occurs gradually over time due to repetitive stresses on the ligament, however a tear in the UCL may also happen in a single traumatic event.

Tommy John UCL Basic Anatomy

The UCL is a strong band of tissue that works in the elbow to hold or tether bones together, and help control movement of the elbow joint. The UCL is located on the inside of the elbow, attached on one side to the humerus, or upper arm bone, and on the other side to the ulna, one of the bones in the forearm. While the UCL consists of three distinct divisions in the ligament, the anterior band, or front of the ligament, is most important in providing for the stability of the elbow.

UCL Injury Signs and Symptoms

When the UCL is compromised through repeated stress, complaints of elbow pain are common. With a tear to the ligament, the elbow becomes unstable impacting the ability to continue playing sports. Experiencing pain during throwing in sports is not normal for children and needs to be evaluated quickly to prevent further injury and damage. Other additional signs may include a sudden “pop” along the inside of the elbow, pain in the elbow after repeated throwing or overhead activities, and reports of tingling or numbness in the pinky and ring fingers.

Tommy John UCL Injury Treatment

A comprehensive evaluation by your pediatric orthopedic surgeon will determine the extent of injury and treatment plan. UCL injury treatment may range from rest and physical rehabilitation to surgery. In the case where Tommy John UCL surgery is dictated, the goal is to stabilize the elbow, restore range of motion, reduce or eliminate pain, and restore function.


Pediatric Orthopaedic Associates Tommy John UCL Injury Team

Working with an experienced pediatric orthopedic sports injury team will assure the most effective treatment with optimal results. Make the call to Pediatric Orthopaedic Associates for quick response when your child has pain from a sports related injury.

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