A Significant Injury To My Elbow

UCL (ulnar collateral ligament) reconstruction, also called Tommy John surgery, is the process of repairing the torn ligament. The UCL is repaired by replacing the damaged ligament with a tendon from another body part. The ligament is located inside the elbow and mostly impacts sportspersons who are involved in throwing. UCL reconstruction has proven to be beneficial for many athletes.


Why UCL reconstruction

Tommy John surgery is not for every athlete who experiences a torn UCL ligament. The doctor will make a decision based on the evaluation of the severity of the injury. A mild or partial tear of the UCL is managed with conservative treatments like medications or a brace. UCL reconstruction is reserved for patients with a complete or stretched tear, which is not better with non-surgical options. Athletes who want to resume overhead or throwing activities are candidates as well.

Success of Tommy John surgery

Patients usually achieve positive outcomes after a UCL reconstruction. Tommy John surgery helps to alleviate elbow pain, stabilize the elbow, and re-establish the range of movement. About 80%-95% can resume sports activities after a UCL reconstruction. The rate of revisions is very low, about 1%-7%. To achieve optimal recovery, following proper physical therapy or rehabilitation is necessary.

Optimizing strength post-surgery

Physical therapy after a UCL reconstruction is crucial to restoring the strength and stability of the elbow. Achieving a complete recovery takes 1-2 years and the process is broken down into 3 phases. Phase 1, after surgery, involves gentle range of motion exercises and keeping a splint on the elbow. During phase 2, about 6 weeks post-surgery, elbow-strengthening exercises are encouraged. After about 4-5 months and reaching phase 3, one can start tossing a ball and gradually improve with time.

Watching out for rare complications

UCL reconstruction has a minimal risk of possible risks or complications. Infections, injury to a nearby nerve or blood vessel, numbness, weakness, or ulnar nerve irritation are risks one can experience. Issues with the graft may occur such as stretching or rupture in which a revision may be required.

Planning to get a UCL reconstruction

Getting a UCL reconstruction benefits athletes, especially those involved with overhead activities or those with a complete injury. Tommy John surgery helps to lessen pain and improve the range of motion and elbow stability. Speak to a healthcare provider about the candidacy of getting a UCL reconstruction and the associated long-term benefits. Follow the healthcare specialist’s post-operative and rehabilitation instructions to attain optimal recovery. Paying strict attention to the instructions will give one the confidence to return to sports activities.

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