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What is Tommy
John Surgery? Is it necessary?
by Chris Daino
If you are a sports fan, youíve
probably heard of this procedure. The surgery is named
after former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Tommy John.
In 1974, he was the first to undergo this type of
Tommy John surgery is also called UCL
reconstruction. UCL is short for ulnar collateral
ligament. Ligament is a short band of tough, flexible, fibrous connective tissue that connects two bones or cartilages or holds together a joint.
Often you hear of athletes getting Tommy John Surgery
due to torn tendons.
"Tommy John" is a surgical
procedure in which a healthy tendon is extracted from
an arm (or sometimes a leg) and is used to replace an
arm's torn ligament. Surgeons drill tunnels in the
ulna and humerus. The tendon (called a
"graft") is passed through the tunnels. It
is then woven into a figure-eight pattern to
reconstruct the ligament. To give the graft added
strength, the original ligament is also attached
Recently, many people have noticed
that there is more and more of these procedures being
dong. You hear about the successful one, but the
baseball players that donít come back are somehow
forgotten. This procedure is so common now, that there
are even some who propose the idea those young players
should proactively seek Tommy John surgery to
"prevent" a future problem and
Following that train of thought, maybe
we should all get bypass surgery in case an artery in
our heart gets clogged? (Or is there something else
that can be done for heart heath so that arteries donít
get clogged with cholesterol?)
But I digress. Back to tendons.
So many players are getting Tommy John
surgery that it has now sounded an alarm in baseball
that maybe this injury is spiraling out of control.
The injury (tearing of the ulnar collateral ligament),
the surgery (using a tendon graft to reconstruct the
UCL) and the rehabilitation process are now familiar.
Yet the problem persists.
Most UCL injuries occur in baseball
players. But other sports are sometimes linked to UCL
injuries. These sports include javelin throw, tennis,
gymnastics, soccer, softball, football, wrestling and
yes, even cheerleading.
Complications can occur in anywhere from 5% to 20% of
patients, depending on the technique that is used. The
most common complication is damage to the ulnar nerve.
Other complications can include infection or hematoma
swelling of clotted blood within the tissues)
What else can be done?
If you read about the pitchers in the
past they didnít need Tommy John. Perhaps, a change
in training would help eliminate these injuries.
Pitching mechanics need to be looked at so that all
the stress is not put on the elbow.The
key treatment of most elbow injuries is prevention.
But, faster and faster speeds are
being asked for and problems due to competition for
placement on the ball teamís roster. Perhaps, we
need to teach the budding athletes better care of the
body both nutritionally (no soda during or after the
game. etc.) and better body use technology.
Why doesnít the body repair these tendons?
Mostly this is due to the body not
being able to repair the injured cells due to the type
of nutrition (or lack of good nutrition) that the
person gets, and again perhaps the "steroid"
drugs injected into the body when there is any sort of
injury or inflammation in the area.
Arenít you suspicious of what these
drugs do to the often injured athlete body? Steroids
suppress the immune system.
It is well known that those athletes
who use PEDs (Performance Enhancing Drugs) that it
creates a breakdown of the body. You just have to read
the coverage of those athletes who were suspected or
who confessed to using PEDs to see the type of
breakdown that occurs.
If you check the Mayo Clinic website
some of the problems with using these steroid drugs
PEDs are severe acne, increased risk of tendonitis,
and tendon rupture, along with a long list of other
possible side effects.
But what about the cortisone steroid
shot for inflammation after an injury and not the PEDs?
Well, again check the Mayo Clinic
Death of nearby bone (osteonecrosis)
Thinning of nearby bone (osteoporosis)
Thinning of skin and soft tissue around the injection
Temporary flare of pain and inflammation in the joint
Tendon weakening or rupture
Did you notice the tendon weakening
and rupture side effect with both types of steroids?
Ligaments, tendons - when one weakens, so does the
There are so many different natural remedies for
inflammation. Isnít that something that would be
better for the athlete?
Okay, but why doesnít the body
repair these tears in the ligaments.
What can be done?
This procedure should surely be used first to see
what it can do before surgery.
Prolotherapy stimulates the growth of
cells and tissue that stabilize and strengthen
weakened joints, cartilage, ligaments and tendons. It
works by injecting an irritant into the area (sugar
water) which then activates the bodyís immune
The injected solution intentionally
causes controlled irritation in the injected tissue.
This irritation is an inflammatory response, which
increases the blood supply, bring nutrients to the
area, and thereby stimulates the tissue to heal and
regrow new tissue.
The body will muster its resources to
combat the irritants and thus bring its own healing
powers to the area in need of help.
Takes about 6 weeksí worth of
injections... No drugs to weaken the body, no invasive
surgery and no long recovery period.
You can read more this at Prolotherapy
The cost of this therapy is a lot
cheaper then the surgery but medical doctors are not
trained to do this. I do know a D.O. in California and
other doctors well trained in structure that does
this. This should be better disseminated and should be
an alternative to surgery.
Per research done (see article) Prolotherapy
will get the same results
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