Tommy John Surgery

Institutes & Services > TriHealth Orthopedic & Sports Institute

Tommy John surgery–also called ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) reconstruction–has helped many athletes get back to playing the sports they love. The first surgery, performed in 1974, continues today to be an effective approach to repair a torn or damaged UCL. At TriHealth Orthopedics & Sports Institute, we combine proven, evidence-based approaches with the latest advances in technology. This helps ensure you return to your favorite activities with reduced pain, faster recovery and better outcomes.

Tommy John Surgery

Tommy John Surgery repairs a torn or damaged UCL, which is a ligament on the inside of the elbow that connects the upper arm to the forearm. It is most common among college and professional athletes, but UCL injuries can happen to anyone.

UCL injury causes

Repetitive overhead motion (like throwing a baseball) is the most common cause of UCL damage. It can also happen from other repetitive motion, like swinging a hammer. Athletes in other sports may also be at risk of UCL injuries, including:

  • Cheerleaders
  • Football players
  • Gymnasts
  • Javelin throwers
  • Soccer players
  • Tennis players
  • Wrestlers

UCL injury symptoms

The most common symptoms of UCL injuries include:

  • Decreased range of motion
  • Loss of velocity when pitching
  • Elbow instability
  • Pain along the inside of the elbow
  • Pain with overhead motions
  • Tingling or numbness in the small finger or ring finger

UCL injury treatment

Your orthopedic specialist will assess your injury to determine the severity of damage to the UCL. The assessment guides the recommended treatment plan. If your injury is relatively minor, a conservative treatment approach might be right for you. Conservative treatment includes:

  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (like ibuprofen)
  • Physical therapy

If your injury is more severe or you want to return to activities that require throwing or overhead activities, you may be a candidate for Tommy John surgery.

What to expect during Tommy John Surgery

During Tommy John surgery, your surgeon will remove a tendon from somewhere else in your body, such as the wrist or forearm. The tendon will then be passed through tunnels in your forearm and upper arm bone and woven into a figure-eight pattern. Your surgeon uses this approach to reconstruct your UCL.

Rehabilitation after Tommy John surgery

Rehabilitation is a key part of returning you safely to sports and activities. At TriHealth Orthopedics & Sports Institute, our physical therapists and surgeons work closely together to create a plan that’s right for you. It can take anywhere from 12-24 months to get you back to the ability level you had before your injury. We’ll be with you every step of the way to ensure your surgery and recovery is successful.

Schedule an appointment

Learn more about Tommy John surgery and our approach to treating UCL injuries. Call us today at 513 246 7846.

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