I was watching the NY Yankees vs. the Atlanta Braves this Wednesday and one of the graphics showed a list of the injured Braves and their injuries. Amongst all of the twisted ankles, pulled groins, and Dense-Wallet-Elbow injuries there was "Tommy John" listed. I thought the network had mistakenly placed a player's name with all of the injuries but it was listed twice. All right, who and or what the heck is Tommy John? It sounds like a type of wrench to me.
-- Jay, the net
Jeez, who's Tommy John? Sometimes you Alicelanders make me feel like a ranger at Jurassic Park. Through the 1970s he was one of the top pitchers in the majors. He retired in 1989, not exactly ancient history. Anyway, in 1974, when pitching for the Dodgers, John tore the ulnar (or medial) collateral ligament in his left elbow, his pitching arm. The UCL connects the lower arm bone (ulna) to one of the upper arm bones (humerus). It's critical to stabilizing the joint, and in the mid-70s a UCL tear was considered a career ender. Not willing to take that for an answer, John found a skilled orthopedic surgeon, stuck out his elbow, and said, "Fix it." Dr. Frank Jobe took on the challenge and invented a new surgical technique to replace the UCL. He took a tendon from John's right wrist, drilled holes in the left humerus and ulna, and threaded the tendon, figure-8 style, through the holes. After rehab, John pitched for another 13 years.
The procedure today is done slightly differently, but it is so common and so successful it's acquired the nickname Tommy John surgery. I assume the doctor hoped it would be called Frank Jobe surgery, but no such luck