What’s typically involved in Tommy John surgery rehab?

The specific techniques and steps involved in your Tommy John surgery rehab will be unique to you. But there are general phases that will be involved in the recovery process. 

Tommy John surgery is also called ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) reconstruction, and this procedure gets its more widely known name from the first patient who had it: major league pitcher Tommy John. This is one of the most common surgeries performed on baseball pitchers. In fact, it’s reported that up to 25% of major league pitchers and 15% of minor league pitchers had a UCL reconstruction at some point in their career. Physical therapists are vital to your Tommy John surgery rehab process, and they can help give you an idea of what your recovery will involve. 

The three basic phases of Tommy John surgery rehab 

It can take quite a while for patients to rehab after Tommy John surgery. In most cases, it takes about one year to completely recover from this procedure, and this means that there are several basic phases you’ll go through during your rehab. These phases include: 

  • Phase 1 — This phase typically goes from just after surgery to about six weeks post-surgery. During the first week to 10 days, patients will wear a splint that immobilizes the elbow. Your physical therapist will show you how to do gentle range-of-motion (ROM) exercises for the hand, wrist and shoulder. 

After about the 10-day mark, you’ll transition to a ROM brace designed to help gradually restore elbow ROM. At this point, you’ll also likely start doing strengthening exercises for your arm and shoulder and doing conditioning exercises. 

  • Phase 2 — The second rehab phase often begins approximately six weeks after surgery. It’s at this point that most patients can start doing some elbow-strengthening exercises. This phase will last until about four months post-surgery, and you’ll have to be careful not to overstress the repaired ligament. 
  • Phase 3 — This final rehab process phase typically lasts from four months post-surgery until the athlete is ready to resume playing. In most cases, this occurs between nine to 12 months after surgery. During this recovery phase, you’ll continue your strengthening and begin to gradually return to throwing the ball. 

Need a top-notch therapy team for your Tommy John rehab? Back in Motion PT can help!

Are you looking for an experienced physical therapy team to help you with Tommy John rehab? Our team at Back in Motion Physical Therapy offers post-surgical rehab that can help you recover from a UCL reconstruction. We can start by doing a free screening of your elbow prior to surgery. This allows us to develop a pre-surgical rehab plan for you, and such a plan helps prepare your elbow for surgery and can lead to a faster recovery after surgery. 

Additionally, we can build you a personalized post-operative recovery plan. Our physical therapists can even help you from home when your post-surgical pain may make it harder to leave home. This is possible because we offer at-home care and virtual therapy services designed to let you work with a physical therapist in your own home. 

Contact us today for more information about our pre- and post-surgical rehab services or to schedule an initial appointment.

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