Friday, August 27, 2010

Tommy John Surgery: What It Is, How It Works

With the news that rookie baseball pitcher Stephen Strasburg may have to have Tommy John surgery to repair a damaged arm, this article gives a good, illustrated look at what this procedure is.

Medically known as ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction surgery (UCLR), the procedure was a major advance in sports medicine in the 1970s, and got its nickname because Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Tommy John was the first baseball player to undergo the new procedure, pioneered by Dr. Frank Jobe. (The operation was a success, and John was able to resume his career.)

Tommy John surgery has a success rate of around 85%, and is considered to be one of the most important advances in sports medicine in the last quarter-century, if not the most important. After undergoing the operation, the patient must undergo rehab for a year, and a pitcher may have to work another year pitching to get back to the form he had before the surgery. But that's much better than the alternative.

Tommy John surgery involves reconstruction of the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL), also called the medial collateral ligament, one of the ligaments connecting the upper arm bone (humerus) to the main forearm bone (ulna). The UCL can be damaged by repetitive stress, such as the throwing motion baseball players use.

In Tommy John surgery (which has been improved greatly since the 1970s), the damaged ligament is replaced with one harvested from another part of the patient's own body, such as the leg or forearm.
Read about Tommy John surgery at this article at what it is, how and why it's performed, what a patient can expect from it, and the complications that can occur.

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