An Overview on Tommy John Surgery for a UCL Tear
Athletes and other individuals involved in throwing and repetitive overhead movements are at an elevated risk of tearing the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL). The UCL is located on the inside (medial) of the elbow and connects the bone of the forearm (ulna) to the bone of the upper arm (humerus). With enough overuse, this ligament can sustain a stretch so severe that the ligament tears and cannot hold the bones tightly together. If a UCL tear is too severe for non-operative treatment, Dr. Nikhil Verma, elbow surgeon treating patients in the Chicago, Westchester, Oak Brook and Hinsdale, Illinois communities, may recommend Tommy John Surgery, otherwise known as ulnar collateral ligament repair.
The Tommy John Surgery is named after Tommy John, the first professional athlete, a pitcher for the LA Dodgers in the 1970s, to undergo the surgery with a successful outcome. Primarily used for professional baseball players for years, the surgical procedure is now increasingly required among college athletes and younger, active individuals.
Tommy John Surgery is designed to restore medial stability to the elbow, allowing patients to return to daily activities and athletic activities with no elbow pain. The surgical procedure removes the damaged and torn ligaments in the medial area of the elbow and replaces them with tendons from another area in the body, commonly from the patient’s hamstring or forearm..
Dr. Verma may perform an arthroscopy before the ulnar collateral ligament repair in certain patients to evaluate the joint damage and remove any bone spurs or loose bodies. The arthroscopy portion of the procedure may not always be necessary. In all ulnar collateral ligament repair patients, Dr. Verma will perform the surgery through an incision on the inside of the elbow joint. The damaged and torn ligaments are then replaced with a tendon from elsewhere in the body.