If you haven't yet, check out Andy's piece on Tommy John surgery. He got into all sorts of interesting stuff about the history, procedure and prognosis of the surgery. However, not only does he know all about it, he's personally been through it. So I thought it would be interesting to do a follow-up where we could get his story and some more of the juicy details. I found his answers insightful, hopefully you do too. Also, if you have any questions of your own, post them in the comments and I'm sure he can answer them.
When did the first signs of an elbow injury manifest and what happened between then and the surgery?
Andy: The date of surgery was August 2, 2011. I first told the coaches it hurt in March of 2011 and tried to rehab it so I could pitch the last third or fourth of the season. After being shut down for 2 weeks, my elbow still hurt. After 6 weeks, my elbow felt better and I started a throwing program but after about a month of long tossing, the pain came back. I went and saw another elbow specialist to get another opinion because the first doctor I saw said I was just fine. The second doc said I would probably need surgery if I kept having the pain. Then we made an appointment with one of the White Sox team surgeons. He has done operations on Carlos Quentin and Joakim Noah just to name a couple. He took a look at my MRI and said there was no tear, but that he thought the ligament was so stretched out, it wouldn’t go back to normal. It is sort of like a pair of shorts that lose their elasticity. He also told me 50% of TJ surgeries these days don’t have a torn UCL.
What has the rehab process been like and where are you currently?
Andy: There are nine steps to the rehab timetable. This is from my surgeon and his rehab program. Rehab programs will vary surgeon to surgeon.
7-10 days: Immobilized in a soft cast.
2-6 weeks: Removable splint for protection. Remove once every hour for ROM (range of motion)
6-10 weeks: Initiate gentle isometrics and light dumbbell work
10 weeks: Total body conditioning. May increase dumbbell work to 1-2 lbs.
12-14 weeks: Light medicine ball underhand toss. Start light bench press (20-50 lbs max)
20 weeks: Light toss on flat ground at 45 feet every-other-day for about 15 minutes. Increase to 60 feet by six month mark.
7-8 months: Being able to throw of mound at 50% effort and speed. NO special pitches. Gradually increase intensity. Watch for arm tightness. May initiate lower extremity weight training including squats/lunges with weights.
8-10 months: Game conditions including batting practice
11-12 months: Starting rotation if pain-free.
Right now I am in the 8-10 month range. I move back to 90 feet in a couple of days and start spinning breaking pitches then too. Because I don’t have to be ready until February of 2013 (hopefully the Mayans were wrong about the end of the world) I am taking a much slower process. Probably won’t be 100% until the 12 or 13 month mark.
What is one misconception about TJS that bothers you most?
Andy: When people joke about getting Tommy John because they think it makes them throw harder, all I can do is shake my head because it’s a lot of extra work plus it’s like learning how to throw again. Imagine you forgot how to ride a bike and then you have to learn again with training wheels and your parents holding you up and that is what the Tommy John process is like.