More than 8 out of 10 of high school and collegiate pitchers undergoing so-called Tommy John elbow reconstructive surgery are able to return to their pre-injury level of performance after 9 months to a year of rehabilitation, a 2011 study  finds.
Injuries to the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) of the elbow, either as a result of an acute traumatic rupture or repeated stress to the elbow resulting in gradual stretching and eventual rupture of the ligament, are common among throwing athletes and often significantly impair their performance due to the instability, pain and inability to perform overhand throwing activities. Because nonoperative treatment (rest, immobilization and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications) is successful in only 4 out of 10 patients (42%), reconstruction of the UCL may be required to allow the athlete to return to his or her previous level of performance.
Reviewing the results for 34 baseball pitchers (20 collegiate, 14 high school) who underwent UCL reconstruction over a 6-year period from 1997 to 2002, researchers found that 29 of 34 (85%) were able to return to competition at or above their preinjury level of participation following a standardized rehabiliation protocol in which most patients were able to begin a throwing program by the fourth month, were at 50% of their preoperative velocity by the sixth postoperative month, and were progressed over the next few months in the number of throws and velocity, with all reaching 100% by 9 to 12 months.
1. Hechtman KS, Zvijac JE, Wells ME, Botto-van Bemden A. Long-Term Results of Ulnar Ligament Reconstruction in Throwing Athletes Based on Hybrid Technique. Am J Sports Med. 2011;39(2): 342-347.
Posted February 21, 2011