THIS ARTICLE IS PART OF THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO SPORTS MEDICINE
In spring of 2015, Aaron Leming was a freshman in college. In the middle of a baseball game, he suddenly injured his right pitching arm. Aaron was immediately referred to OrthoIndy by Franklin College to assess his injury.
OrthoIndy hand specialist, Dr. Jeffrey Whitaker, determined that Aaron would need ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction, also referred to as Tommy John surgery (TJS).
TJS is named after major league pitcher Tommy John who was born in Indiana and played at Indiana State University. John had his surgery during his major league pitching career in 1975 and missed the entire 1975 season rehabbing his arm. He successfully returned in 1976 and pitched until 1989. This was a widely known successful operation.
“Aaron had a tear of the main medial stabilizing ligament of the elbow, which absorbs all the force of throwing. High demand throwing, such as baseball pitching, is difficult and painful with that ligament injured,” said Dr. Whitaker. “The throwing force can sometimes cause ulnar nerve problems due to traction on the nerve as the elbow opens medially when throwing.”
Tommy John surgery
Aaron’s surgery involved a reconstruction of the ligament using a tendon taken from his own forearm called the palmaris longus. The tendon is taken through drill holes in isometric positions in the distal humerus and the proximal ulna.
“The muscle attachments are elevated and the ulnar nerve is transposed to the front of the elbow to protect and prevent any further traction injury to the nerve in the future. The muscles are then repaired to their origin,” said Dr. Whitaker.
Elbow surgery recovery
Aaron spent his entire summer protecting his arm by wearing an arm brace and cast. After his brace and cast were removed, he went through extensive physical therapy at OrthoIndy until December 2015 to regain strength and mobility back in his arm.
“The surgery was difficult and the recovery and rehab were even harder,” said Aaron. “You need to stay committed to the process that OrthoIndy lays out for you. It can be hard because you just want to get out and play again but by being patient and committed, you can have a great result in the end like I did.”
Although Aaron was referred to OrthoIndy by Franklin College, Aaron’s family chose OrthoIndy based on reputation. “We are familiar with the physician reputation and the location is extremely convenient,” said Nancy, Aaron’s mother.
In fact, when Aaron injured his left arm in 2016, unrelated to baseball, he returned to Dr. Whitaker at OrthoIndy for treatment.
Back in the game
“Aaron is 100 percent and more. He has returned to pitching at full capacity,” Nancy shared.
Since Aaron dodged a curveball, he was able to get back into uniform and play his favorite sport his senior year.
“Surgery is worth going through if you are committed to the sport you are playing and being the best you can be at that sport,” said Aaron. “The experience at OrthoIndy couldn’t have been better! The facilities are excellent and the care I received before, during and after were top notch.”
Aaron had a great senior year, and so did his Franklin teammates.
With Aaron’s hard work, dedication to baseball and rehabbing after surgery, he was able to excel and grow as an athlete and individual.
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Whitaker, please call 317.884.5168 or learn more about sports medicine treatment at OrthoIndy.
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