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Advanced Technologies that Ensure Your Tommy John Surgery is Successful

There may come a time in your pitching career when you need to undergo ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) reconstruction (Tommy John surgery). Tearing your UCL is an occupational hazard for anyone who must repetitively throw hard. In fact, between 1999 and 2015, 235 Major League Baseball (MLB) pitchers underwent Tommy John surgery.

Of course, you don’t have to be an MLB pitcher or player to tear your UCL. Both amateur and professional athletes, such as javelin throwers, football players, and Little League pitchers, are susceptible to UCL tears. 

David Lintner, MD is a world-renowned sports medicine specialist who specializes in Tommy John surgery at Houston Methodist Orthopedics & Sports Medicine in Kingwood and Houston, Texas. As the head team physician for the Houston Astros, he has expertise in successfully treating athletes with advanced technologies that minimize the impact of UCL repair.

How do advanced technologies help accelerate healing after Tommy John so you can return to your game? The following is a brief rundown.

Smaller incisions mean faster healing

The goal of Tommy John surgery, which is named for the first MLB pitcher who had the operation, is to either repair the ligament with high-tech options or reinforce the torn UCL with a graft from elsewhere in your body. We may take a tendon graft from your:

Arthrex® internal brace avoids grafts

In certain instances, you may be able to avoid a graft operation. Instead, Dr. Lintner repairs your UCL with an internal brace. You’re more likely to respond well to UCL repair if you’re a young athlete, the injury is relatively fresh, and the ligament detached from the bone ( rather than being torn in its mid-substance).

The internal brace is a synthetic band that helps reinforce the ligament’s tissue to augment the repair. It’s only appropriate for soft-tissue-to-bone repair rather than a tear that involves the substance of the ligament.  So, not all UCL injuries are best treated with the internal brace procedure. While the “IB” procedure has a faster recovery than TJ, your injury may be best treated with a TJ using a graft.  The MRI and exam will help us decide together.

BioECM® amniotic membrane graft 

Dr. Lintner may also use an amniotic membrane graft to promote wound healing. The grafts are rich with progenitor cells that help your body produce more stem cells to promote tissue healing.

Amniotic membrane grafts provide an abundant source of extracellular matrix (ECM), which promotes healing and rebuilding. The graft is made from donated and processed placenta from healthy live births.

Platelet-rich plasma helps rebuild

Your blood helps rebuild and heal tissue damage. We create a special serum using your own blood that contains a super-concentration of platelets — the cell fragments that clot blood and restore tissue. Using PRP may help you heal a UCL without surgery for less severe tears.

Just a couple of tubes of arm blood is all it takes to create platelet-rich plasma (PRP). You then get billions of platelets right at the location where you need them most. Athletes have used PRP for more than a decade to accelerate wound healing and injury recovery.  

Specialized rehab protocols

In addition to our high-tech tools, Houston Methodist Orthopedics & Sports Medicine also benefits from specialized rehabilitation protocols devised by Dr. Lintner and our team. We have a four-phase recovery protocol that takes about six months to complete.

Over the years, MLB pitchers who’ve undergone UCL replacement or repair, 75% were able to play professionally again. WIth newer techniques the results are improving. With Dr. Lintner’s high-tech approach and decades of experience, you can expect the same odds or better.

Increase your chances of successful Tommy John surgery by contacting our friendly and knowledgeable staff by phone or the online form. If you’re far from the Houston area, you can send Dr. Lintner an MRI for a treatment recommendation.

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