Made famous by the Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher who first had the surgery done in 1974, Tommy John surgery is known by anyone who even remotely pays attention to baseball or other athletics where throwing is involved, but how many people ACTUALLY know what the surgery is or why it is done? In recent years, the surgery has even become well known in the youth sports realm, and that is quite alarming. That means young children are getting major joint reconstructive surgery BEFORE those joints have reached skeletal maturity and stopped growing! That can cause major issues down the road.
What is Tommy John surgery?
Tommy John surgery is performed when the Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL) on the inside of the elbow joint has been torn. The UCL is a dense strong ligament that holds the upper arm bone (the humerus) to the inside bone of the forearm (the ulna). When the ligament is torn, the structural integrity of the elbow joint is compromised, and there is instability in the elbow joint that can lead to decreased performance and mild pain in very small tears and strains to severe pain with elbow movement, early-onset arthritis, and joint destruction in very severe tears that do not heal correctly. During the reconstruction surgery, the surgeon will use a graft, or tissue taken from someplace else in the body (usually a muscle-tendon), to reattach the humerus and ulna. They will drill holes in the bones, thread the tendons through the holes, and then connect the ends of the tendons, creating a lashing of a sort like you might use to tie two logs together. To watch a short video on how this surgery is done, follow this link! Tommy John Surgery Explained!
Does Tommy John surgery increase performance?