What kind of rehabilitation follows Tommy John surgery?

During the first two to three weeks after Tommy John surgery, the patient’s arm will be placed in a sling with his elbow flexed to 90 degrees. During this phase of rehabilitation, he will be allowed to perform some movement of the fingers and wrist. His certified athletic trainer or physical therapist can also take his elbow through a limited range of motion, usually beginning around week three. He will be allowed to perform some hand gripping exercises with a ball or putty and, depending on his pain level, he may begin some isometric muscle contractions (the muscle contracts, but the joint does not move, as if pushing against a wall) in specific directions.

After the first two to three weeks, the physician will likely transfer him into a functional hinge brace that will allow him some additional range of motion, but will restrict him from moving the elbow outside of a safe range. During the next four weeks, he will begin increasing his range of motion and will begin very light strengthening exercises of the forearm, elbow and shoulder. Throwing is usually not initiated before 20 weeks. This rehabilitation program can be expected to take a minimum of six months to one year to complete.

(This answer provided for NATA by the King College Athletic Training Education Program.)

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.