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When is Tommy John Surgery Necessary?

Tommy John Surgery is typically necessary when non-surgical treatments such as rest, physical therapy, and medication fail to relieve the symptoms of UCL damage or when the ligament is completely torn. Signs that may suggest a UCL injury include:

  • Persistent elbow pain
  • Decreased performance or inability to perform in your sport
  • Instability in the elbow
  • Feeling “pop” sensation in the elbow at the time of injury

The Tommy John Surgery Procedure

During Tommy John Surgery, the surgeon will typically replace the damaged UCL with a tendon from another part of the patient’s body, or in some cases, from a donor. This process is called a tendon graft. The surgery is performed under general anesthesia and can last between 40 minutes to 1 hour. The surgeon makes an incision over the elbow, identifies the tear, drills small holes into the bones where the UCL attaches, and weaves the tendon graft into place. The graft is kept in position by 2 small anchors placed deep in the bones.

What To Expect After Tommy John Surgery

Recovery from Tommy John Surgery is a gradual process and often requires a commitment to a rigorous physical therapy regimen. For the first few weeks after surgery, the elbow is typically immobilized in a brace to allow the new tendon graft to heal. Gradually, exercises to improve range of motion and strength are introduced under the guidance of a physical therapist.

It can take between 9-12 months for an athlete to return to competitive sports after Tommy John Surgery, depending on their position. However, the exact recovery timeline can vary based on the individual’s overall health, the severity of the initial injury, and the person’s commitment to rehabilitation. With consistent adherence to post-operative care and physical therapy, most patients can expect to return to their previous level of performance.

At Performance Sports Medicine Institute, we ensure that each patient receives individualized care to maximize their recovery and get them back to doing what they love. With our world-class orthopedic surgeons and dedicated post-operative care team, you are in safe hands on your journey back to peak performance.

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