What is Tommy John surgery?

Modified: May 1, 2008 at 12:39 am •  Published: May 1, 2008
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Tommy John surgery was first performed by Dr. Frank Jobe after John, a longtime major league pitcher, was diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in 1974.

Before Jobe came up with the procedure, a torn UCL was a near death sentence for a pitcher's career. Sandy Koufax is among the pitchers whose careers were cut short by the injury.

Since Jobe invented the procedure, around 100 major league players and many more minor leaguers, college and high school players have had their career salvaged by the surgery.

The procedure involves the transplantation of a tendon from either the wrist or hamstring to replace the UCL, located on the inside of the elbow.

Now, Dr. James Andrews of Birmingham, Ala., is the preeminent surgeon performing Tommy John surgery.

Andrews has operated on a long list of athletes, including Troy Aikman, Charles Barkley, Roger Clemens and Michael Jordan. In the last few days, John Smoltz of the Atlanta Braves and Jorge Posada of the New York Yankees have made trips to Birmingham to consult with Andrews about various injuries.

By Ryan Aber