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Why is it called Tommy John Surgery

Categories: Surgery


More than 25 percent of Major League Baseball pitchers have undergone Tommy John surgery at some time of their career. Over the past three years 44 pitchers have undergone Tommy John surgery. This is one of the most common baseball surgeries. In this presentation, I will be going over on what is a Tommy John surgery, the origin of the surgery. You will learn about the rehabilitation process and the program. Also, you will learn ways on how you can prevent getting injured.

However, Tommy John surgery is an injury that not only affects pitchers but also position players.

What Is the Tommy John Surgery?

The Tommy John surgery is named after former Major League Baseball pitcher Thomas Edward John (Tommy John). Thomas John was the first pitcher and patient to have the surgery. The Tommy John surgery is an elbow injury that tends to occur to throwing athletes, mostly baseball pitchers. The Tommy John surgery is a reconstruction to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament (UCL).

The goal of the surgery is to stabilize the elbow. To stabilize the elbow, they repair the ulnar collateral ligament. The ulnar collateral ligament is the band that connects your upper arm bone the humerus to your forearm bone the ulna. In some cases, the ulnar collateral ligament of the elbow needs to be replaced with a tendon from elsewhere of your body like a tendon from the hamstring and wrist.

Rehabilitation Process

The rehabilitation for a Tommy John surgery is a long one, it requires up to 12 to 16 months to get back on the field.

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The time varies from patient to patient. The rehabilitation protocol involves three phases.

  • Phase one: during phase one the elbow is secure in a brace to protect the elbow and reduce the inflammation. Physical therapy starts right away. The therapy involves a light exercise of the bicep, shoulder, and wrist. This exercise is done to avoid muscle atrophy.
  • Phase two: this phase is one or two weeks after the surgery. Your arm is out in a hinged brace, this brace will allow your arm to be in a certain angle when you are not doing any exercise. During this phase you will focus on the range of motion of the elbow.
  • Phase three: this phase is a month after the surgery. During this face you will stop wearing the brace. You will continue to do a range of motion exercises; you will regain your normal range of motion within two to four months after the surgery. Most players start throwing programs 6 months after the surgery. The time varies on the players, some players heal faster than others.

After the throwing program is finished and if the player does not show any problem in his arm, he will be ready to start playing again. Around 90 percent of the getting the Tommy John surgery play again. It is successful surgery. There is a perception that the surgery makes pitchers better. While the pitchers are doing their rehabilitation program, they understand their pitching mechanics, they get stronger on their legs and core, and with the consistent stretch, it helps them become better.

How to Prevent the Tommy John Injury

There is no method to prevent the injury but there are some factors or changes that can help you and lower the risk of getting injured. Some factors are having a good elbow angle when throwing, having strong hip strength, good pitching mechanics, and not throwing too many pitches in a game. Having a good stretching and strength training routine is likely to prevent the injury. Nowadays there are so many advancements in the technology that helps the prevention of the injury. There is a camera with high technology that helps to see the position and angle of the elbow and the mechanics of the player.

Position With the Higher Risk of Getting Tommy John

The pitcher is the position with a higher risk of getting Tommy John surgery. There have been 1,880 Tommy John surgeries of professional baseball players tracked by writer and analyst Jon Roegele. Of the 1,880 players that have undergone the Tommy John surgery 1,700 were pitchers. Around 90 percent were performed on pitchers. Of the 1,880 Tommy John surgeries, only 496 were on Major League Baseball players. Of the 496 Major League Baseball players surgeries, 449 were on pitchers and only 47 were position players. Pitchers are the position with higher risk because the injury happens when you stretch your elbow. Throwing a baseball involves a violent stretch on your elbow.

Successful Stories After Having Tommy John Surgery

  1. Jacob deGrom is the only starting pitcher to win a Cy Young Award after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Jacob deGrom has won two Cy Young awards after the surgery. The award is given to the best pitcher of the league.
  2. John Smoltz is one of the most famous Tommy John success stories. He is the first player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame after undergoing the surgery.
  3. Jonny Venters is one of two pitchers to make it back to the big leagues after three Tommy John surgeries. Venters took more than five years to make it back to the big leagues
  4. Eric Gagne is the only relieve pitcher to win a Cy Young award after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He was the only pitcher to win the award after the surgery until Jacob deGrom joined him.


With the Tommy John surgery being more common on pitchers, they should make the changes to prevent the injury. Changing their mechanic, getting stronger, and flexible will help them. The good thing about the Tommy John surgery is that it is not a career-ending injury. Doing a good rehabilitation program and following all the phases and steps you will get back healthy. Pitchers tend to get better after the injury. The Tommy John surgery is a successful surgery with around 90 percent of the players gets back to play.

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Why is it called Tommy John Surgery. (2020, Sep 15). Retrieved from

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