Tommy John Elbow Surgery

A repetitive throwing motion places considerable stress on the Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL) in the elbow. UCL injuries occur most frequently among baseball players, especially pitchers, but other activities and athletic pursuits may also injure the UCL.

Named after a former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher who successfully underwent the procedure in 1974, “Tommy John” surgery repairs a torn elbow ligament by grafting a tendon from elsewhere in the body. It’s a proven surgical solution to UCL injury. At False Creek Healthcare, board certified Orthopaedic Surgeon Dr. Jason Smith is one of a handful of Canadian surgeons who perform Tommy John elbow ligament reconstruction.

Tommy John surgery is an outpatient procedure that effectively repairs UCL injuries and allows you to reclaim an active lifestyle. Dr. Jason Smith specializes in sports orthopaedics, including ligament reconstruction and arthroscopic procedures of the shoulder, elbow and knee. Splitting his time between Toronto and Vancouver, Dr. Smith is Chief of Orthopaedics at the Rouge Valley Centenary Hospital and has been a team doctor for the Toronto Blue Jays since 2008.

Reasons for the Tommy John elbow surgery

UCL reconstruction surgery may be recommended to treat:

  • Overuse injuries
  • Acute injuries
  • Inner elbow pain
  • A sensation of elbow joint instability
  • Ulnar nerve or “funny bone” irritation that leads to tingling or numbness in the small and ring fingers
  • A decreased ability to throw a ball or another object

What to Expect from Tommy John Surgery

During your visit to our practice, you will undergo a detailed assessment to provide Dr. Smith with the information necessary to make an accurate diagnosis.

UCL reconstruction surgery takes about two hours under general anaesthesia. An overnight stay is not usually required. During the procedure, your surgeon will graft a harvested tendon from your forearm or hamstring into your elbow to replace the torn ligament, connecting the bone of the upper arm to a bone in the forearm.

Afterward, you will wear a splint for 7-10 days to immobilize the elbow. As you begin to heal, you will also do gentle exercises and strengthening routines to regain full motion of the elbow joint. Most patients who undergo Tommy John surgery can expect resume their athletic activities at the same, or even a higher, level of competition after rehabilitation.

Next Steps

If you’re ready to discuss your surgical needs with our board certified surgeons, request a consultation today. During your consultation, your patient care advisor will discuss:

  • Your medical history
  • Pre- and post-operative care
  • Potential risks and complications


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