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Modified Ligament Surgery Improves Outcomes Players, Athletes

A team of Surgeons has determined that by modifying a classic ligament surgery, they can return more athletes, such as baseball players//, to their prior level of competition. The modified surgery repairs a torn medial collateral ligament (MCL), which links and stabilizes bones of the lower and upper arm where they meet at the elbow.

Less traumatic than the classic Tommy John surgery, the modified surgery called the docking procedure, with time, is likely to become the gold standard for treating these injuries.

“This paper, in the largest series of patients ever published, shows that this particular operation in throwing athletes demonstrates better results than the classic operation,” said David W. Altchek, M.D., senior author of the study and co-chief of the Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service at Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) in New York. The study was presented at a special session of the American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons, held during the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons annual meeting.

MCL injury is most common in professional and amateur athletes involved in so-called overhead throwing sports, such as baseball, softball, football, lacrosse and tennis. These sports involve a throwing motion at high velocity that exerts an exceptional force at the elbow. Repeated over time, this motion can cause inflammation and microtrauma, which can eventually lead to an MCL tear. When this ligament is torn, an individual has a full range of motion and can go about daily life, but a professional or semi-professional athlete cannot perform at their usual level because they cannot exert a significant force.

Specifically, the MCL attaches the ulna, one of two long bones that run from the elbow down to the wrist, with the humerus, the bone of the upper arm. For 30 years, athletes have undergone the Tommy John surgery or Jobe surgery (named after its inventor), in which a tendon is taken from a person’s forearm or hams
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