Tommy John Surgery

Tommy John Surgery, also known as ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) reconstruction, is a surgical graft procedure in which the ulnar collateral ligament in the medial elbow is replaced with a tendon from elsewhere in the body. The procedure is common among collegiate and professional athletes in several sports, most notably baseball. The Tommy John procedure has become commonplace among big leaguers, especially pitchers.

The procedure was first performed in 1974 and is named after the first baseball player to undergo the surgery, former major league pitcher Tommy John, whose 288 career victories ranks seventh all time among left-handed pitchers. Before this surgical technique was developed, an MCL tear was most often a career ender for elite baseball players.

When Tommy John had the procedure done, his chances of full recovery were about 1 in 100. Today greater than 80 percent of patients’ procedures go exactly as planned.

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