Elbow pain, especially when throwing, as well as weakness, numbness and instability, can all signal a torn ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) that requires reconstruction, known as Tommy John surgery. Board-certified orthopedic surgeon Marc Pietropaoli, MD, reconstructs your UCL using your own tendon or a graft to improve your comfort and elbow function. At Victory Sports Medicine & Orthopedics in Skaneateles, New York, Dr. Pietropaoli offers outpatient surgeries along with in-office rehab to give you the best care possible under one roof. Set up an in-person or telemedicine consultation to discuss your elbow issues. You can use the online booking tool or call the office today.
Tommy John surgery, also called ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction, is a surgical procedure to reconstruct a torn ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) on the inside of your elbow. It’s named after the first patient to have the surgery, baseball pitcher Tommy John, in 1974.
Tommy John surgery is a common procedure to relieve elbow pain caused by a torn UCL, especially for baseball players and other throwing athletes. Recovery can take up to a year, though Dr. Pietropaoli uses innovative rehab protocols and complementary therapies to speed up the healing process.
During the surgery, Dr. Pietropaoli takes a portion of tendon from another area of your body and uses it to reconstruct your torn UCL. The piece of tendon can be taken from your forearm, hamstrings, or foot, depending on your athletic goals and overall health.
In some cases, a graft from donor tissue is used if your other tendons aren’t appropriate for the repair. Once the graft tissue is ready, Dr. Pietropaoli removes debris and damaged tissue from your inner elbow and secures the graft in place.
The graft provides support to your elbow for greater stability and range of motion. The procedure typically takes 60-90 minutes to perform while you’re asleep under general anesthesia.
Rehab after Tommy John surgery is essential to your healing and ability to move your elbow comfortably through a full range of motion. Your rehab is typically divided into three phases, based on your level of healing.
During the first phase, your elbow is secured in a brace at a 60- to 90-degree angle. Your physical therapist focuses on stretching and strengthening muscles in your shoulder and wrist to prevent muscle loss during your recovery.
In the second phase, you can begin moving your elbow about 1-2 weeks after surgery. At this point, your physical therapist incorporates range of motion exercises for your elbow.
The third phase of rehab begins after about a month and includes exercises to help you fully extend your elbow. If you’re an athlete, additional therapy may be needed to improve your overall muscle strength so you can return to play.
To find out if you can benefit from Tommy John surgery, call or schedule an in-person or telemedicine consultation online now.