Tommy John Surgery Explained - Michael Redler, MD
I’m Dr Michael Redler – orthopaedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine and hand surgery at the Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Center. Tommy John surgery was named for Tommy John who was a professional baseball pitcher who ruptured the ligaments on the inside portion of his elbow. That ligament is called the ulnar collateral ligament and once it tears it does not have ability to heal. This most commonly has been associated with baseball players but frankly, it can occur in almost any sport and also can occur with a fall at home or even an industrial injury. The elbow is meant to flex and extend but, if those ligaments are torn that elbow is unstable then reconstruction is necessary. This is because the ligament does not have ability to heal on its own. We treat this with a replacement of the ligament with a tendon taken from elsewhere in the body. This is done as an outpatient procedure – often under regional anesthesia which means you don’t need to go to sleep. Postoperatively you’re treated first in a splint and then a brace. And then physical therapy. The goal is to get these athletes and other individuals back to full activity with a stable elbow. Interestingly, this is such a common procedure even Tommy John, the professional baseball player, calls it Tommy John surgery.