Ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) reconstruction, known in layman's terms as Tommy John surgery, is one of the most common operations related to sports injuries, and it is an option that 40 or more professional baseball players face every year. It is an important decision, as it often entails sitting out one or two seasons with the hope of returning for another few years of a career. However, not much is known by athletes about the actual process of coming back from the surgery, which can be a long and tough process. It is good to know what lies in store before committing to the procedure.
Right after the surgery, the arm is placed into a cast at a right angle to immobilize it. This immobilization typically lasts between 7 to 14 days, and can be a surprise to many who think that rehabilitation immediately follows surgery. This step is crucial in keeping the pain level of the patient low after such an in-depth procedure that requires so much work on the arm.
After the phase of immobilizing the arm comes the long and arduous process of physical therapy. This process can be very in-depth, especially for professional athletes whose livelihood depends on the health of their throwing arm. The most important part about this step in the process is to consult a physical therapist who specializes in Tommy John surgery. This stage in treatment can last up to 18 weeks, or it can be as short as 6.
After the intensive, exam-room physical therapy comes the more sports-oriented recovery. This often includes throwing exercises and active practice in the field. The key to this stage is to re-learn the muscle memory with the new UCL, but also to get the athlete back in playing shape after being more or less immobile for so long. This phase, which will see the long-awaited return to the mound for pitchers, typically begins around the sixth month of treatment, and is the longest part of the treatment, lasting up to 10 months.
The decision to undergo Tommy John surgery should not be taken lightly, given the extensive recovery time involved. However, being able to visualize a goal in terms of time can be a very motivating factor in the whole process, and knowing what's in store is always helpful. Getting this important surgery done is often a career-saver, and at least will allow for a second chance at getting back on the field. Speak with professionals like Conroy Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy for more information.Share
5 February 2015
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