Issue: October 2015
October 06, 2015
1 min read

Increases in Tommy John surgeries likely after elbow injury in young athletes

Issue: October 2015
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ORLANDO, Fla. — Researchers observed an increase in the incidence of ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction among young athletes between the ages of 15 and 19 years old, according to study results.

Brandon J. Erickson, MD, of Rush University Medical Center, Midwest Orthopedics, and his colleagues conducted a retrospective study using the Pearl Diver private-payer database to identify 790 young athletes who underwent ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction, commonly referred to as Tommy John surgery, between 2007 and 2011. Most of the patients were men.

“Our study showed that the highest number of Tommy John surgeries were performed in patients aged 15 [years] to 19 [years],” Erickson told Orthopedics Today. “Similarly, this age group had the highest rate of growth of Tommy John surgeries over time between 2007 and 2011.”

Annual increase

The average annual incidence for Tommy John surgeries was 3.96 per 100,000 patients, according to the researchers. Incident rates increased at a rate of 9.12% per year in the 15- to 19-year-old group, according to the researchers.

Erickson reported that when first beginning the study, the researchers hypothesized the highest number of Tommy John surgeries would be performed in teenage athletes based on clinical experience at Rush.

“We did not think the difference in the number of surgeries between the 15- to 19-year-old (57% of all surgeries) and 20- to 24-year-old (22% of all surgeries) age groups would be as large as it was,” Erickson said.

Regional differences

According to the researchers, more procedures were performed in the southern region of the United States than any other region. In addition, the number of procedures increased significantly over time.

“The results are concerning, as more and more young patients are requiring this surgery,” Erickson said. “Although several preventative programs have been instituted, as an orthopedic community, we need to continue to work to find new and better ways to prevent these injuries from happening.” – by Monica Jaramillo

Disclosure: Erickson reports no relevant financial disclosures.