Nowadays, athletes are using additional medical technologies to improve their performance. In the case of Tommy John surgery (TJs), this is no exception. Athletes are booking consultations to get the surgery done en masse. This could be viewed as an abuse of modern medical technique.
What is Tommy John Surgery?
Tommy John surgery is the reconstruction of the ulnar collateral ligament. This ligament is found in the medial elbow
. The surgery consists of replacing that ligament with a tendon that is located somewhere else in the body. The surgery is popular among baseball players, specifically pitchers.
The surgery was first done in 1974 on a pitcher named Tommy John by Dr. Frank Jobe. The procedure consists of first opening up the patient's arm. Holes are made in the ulna and humerus bones. The surgeon then takes a tendon from the patient or from elsewhere and weaves it into the holes.
The Surgery's Effectiveness
Early predictions for the success of the surgery were not that favorable. However, nowadays, the success rate has climbed to 85-92 percent. Tommy John himself went on after rehabilitation to do exceptionally well at the game.
The rehabilitation time is fairly substantial. It takes six months to one year, depending upon which position you play. If the surgery is performed twice, the prognosis isn't as good.
When Do You Need Tommy John Surgery?
Around 51% of high school athletes think that the procedure should be done on athletes with an elbow injury to improve performance. The reality is that the only approved medical reason for the surgery is if you have a torn or ruptured ulnar collateral ligament.
Ulnar collateral ligament injuries happen when repeated stress harms the inside of the elbow. These injuries are occurring with greater frequency with the rise of popularity of certain sports, such as baseball. If the injury is minor, a physical therapist can help with it. Surgery can be done if the patient has ongoing pain or if their elbow lacks stability when they play their sport.
If you've a UCL injury, then you may have the following symptoms:
- It becomes painful to use your arm in an overhead position
- You've soreness in the inside edge of your elbow
- You've swelling along the inside of your arm
- You've numbness or tingling in the arm
- Your elbow joint feels unstable
Many UCL injuries can be avoided by correcting your form when you play your chosen sport. Tommy John surgery, despite its high success rate, should only be used if all other options are exhausted. There's always some level of risk involved in any surgery and an invasive procedure should always be done with caution. That being said, the surgery definitely has a positive use for some people.