Tommy John for Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL)

If Tommy John surgery is right for your child, a pediatric orthopedic and sports medicine specialist from the Children's Health℠ Andrews Institute meets with you to explain how it works and answer any questions you may have.

What is Tommy John for Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL)?

When your child suffers an injury to the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) inside the elbow, we’re here to help. Children can often fully recover from a UCL injury, thanks to a procedure known as Tommy John surgery.

Tommy John surgery repairs an injured elbow ligament, called the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL). It's most commonly done on young athletes, especially baseball pitchers. UCL tears happen from traumatic injuries, such as breaking the elbow, or from repetitive injuries, like throwing a baseball.

During Tommy John surgery, your surgeon will replace your child’s injured UCL with a tendon taken from somewhere else in your child’s body. Tommy John surgery will minimize your child’s pain and enable a return to sports and other daily activities.

What can I expect with Tommy John for Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL) surgery?

The surgery involves a number of steps:

  1. A pediatric orthopedic subspecialist gives medication to help your child fall asleep.
  2. Before the procedure, the surgeon may first perform arthroscopic surgery to remove any loose fragments in the joint.
    (Learn more about arthroscopy.)
  3. We take a tendon, also known as a graft, from your child’s forearm or hamstring that we use to replace the injured UCL.
  4. We make an incision on the inside of the elbow to access your child’s UCL.
  5. Using special tools, we drill tunnels into your child’s forearm and upper arm bones to weave the tendon through the holes in figure eight patterns to reconstruct the ligament.
  6. After closing the incision, the procedure is complete.
  7. The surgery lasts 60 to 90 minutes.
  8. Your child recovers in our post-op recovery room. Here, nurse specialists experienced in caring for pediatric orthopedic patients provide around-the-clock monitoring.
  9. Your child remains in the hospital overnight.
  10. After surgery, your surgeon and our in-house physical therapists (PT) work together to design a comprehensive rehabilitation plan for your child.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why choose Children’s Health?

    At the Andrews Institute, our pediatric orthopedic and sports medicine specialists have extensive experience performing this advanced, effective procedure, named after the first baseball pitcher to undergo it. Highlights of our program include:

    • Highly skilled surgeons: All of our physicians are experts in treating pediatric orthopedic conditions, qualifying them to treat even the most complex conditions.
    • Innovative technology: We offer access to cutting-edge technology, techniques and tools for every aspect of your child’s treatment.
    • Advanced pediatric pain management techniques: All of our nurses and anesthesiologists specialize in pediatric care, offering your child responsive, compassionate care during the procedure.
    • Multidisciplinary follow-up care: Our multidisciplinary team of highly skilled physicians, surgeons, nurses and in-house physical therapists work together to provide your child with comprehensive, personalized care.