The UCL is located on the inside of the elbow and connects the bone of the upper arm (humerus) to a bone in the forearm (ulna). With repetitive throwing motion and overuse, the ligament stretches to the point where it tears and can no longer hold the bones tightly together. Tommy John surgery is a procedure in which a healthy tendon extracted from an arm (or sometimes a leg) is used to reconstruct and reinforce the torn UCL.
Tommy John Surgery and On-going Research
Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush and Rush University Medical Center recently conducted a study of the impact of Tommy John surgery on the post-surgery performance of major league players. Their research found that a successful surgery not only puts MLB pitchers back on the mound, but, in many cases, also improves their game. The study showed four of five MLB pitchers who underwent ulnar collateral ligament surgery pitched as well or better than before their injury.
For years, Tommy John surgery for an ulnar collateral ligament tear of the elbow was primarily used for professional baseball players. But a new study conducted by MOR physicians Dr. Anthony Romeo, Dr. Charles Bush-Joseph and Dr. Bernard Bach, Jr. and published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, showed teenage athletes now make up the majority of patients undergoing Tommy John surgery. The study, which was conducted between 2008 and 2011, found that 57 percent of the 790 U.S. Tommy John surgery patients were ages 15 to 19, followed by 22 percent for ages 20 to 24.