Tommy John Rehab: An Unconventional Approach


Back on March 22nd I underwent Tommy John surgery to repair my torn ulnar collateral ligament. Leading up to surgery I knew I wanted to approach my rehab differently from the status quo, specifically with my return to throwing program. It was important for me to get my overall strength back before I moved onto throwing. Within a week post surgery I was already beginning to do lower body exercises that didn’t require me to use my left arm. The use of a safety bar became extremely valuable for me to do squats and lunges. After getting my range of motion back and continuing rehab for my arm, I started to incorporate deadlifts into my program about three and a half months post surgery, starting off light and gradually adding weight. 

Throughout the early stages of rehab I was doing a lot of band work for my upper body as well as a lot of forearm strengthening exercises. Around month four I began utilizing medicine balls at a low intensity, including some light reverse throws. After month five I was technically cleared to throw, but I knew I was nowhere close to being where I wanted to be to pick up a baseball. From month five on I created my own rehab program. At this point I started slowly adding wrist weights, shoulder tube, upward tosses, rebounders, and continued with reverse throws. I did this type of work along with upper body and lower body strength work for the next five weeks. 

On September 17th I made my first forward throw variation since March. I started with performing a kneeling pivot pick throw with a 7.5 oz. plyo ball. My goal was to stay conservative early on in this process and to focus more on increasing volume rather than intensity. After a couple weeks of kneeling pivot picks I progressed to a standing pivot pick. After this I started to add another throwing variation every week or two. The next drill was a modified roll in, then I proceeded to rockers.

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This progression happened for six weeks before I moved onto to throwing weighted baseballs, starting with a 9 oz. ball. I threw that for a week, then a 7 oz. the next week, and a 6 oz. the following week, before the day finally came that I picked up a baseball.

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On November 5th, seven and a half months post surgery I made my first throw with a baseball. Due to the fact I had been building up to this with different throwing variations for about two and a half months, I felt as ready as ever to throw the baseball. I was able to get out to about 90 feet on that first day with no problems.

Over the last month I have continued to put a lot of work in with the plyo drills and have extended my long toss every week. I am focusing on getting to my max distance before proceeding with any aggressive pulldowns.

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You might be asking yourself why I went with this approach. There were a few things that lead me to do this. The first being I read an article that Driveline put out before I even got hurt about some of the rehab things they had done with guys and the success they had ( I also did research on the typical return to throwing programs and I couldn’t believe the volume of throws and how quickly it wanted me to progress. I knew especially as I got closer to my first “cleared to throw” day that I was no where near ready to make a throw, never mind the 60-70 throws it wanted me to do on day one!

The second reason I wanted to go with this approach was I wanted to put a big focus into fixing my mechanics. Specifically I wanted to improve my arm path and the way my lower body moved. I am happy to say I have made tremendous strides with that since surgery. The heavy balls help you throw more efficiently and by consciously focusing on the movements it has been a huge help. I wanted to be confident in what I was trying to do and feel before picking up a baseball because the tendency is to go right back to your old habits when you feel that baseball again.

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The last reason I wanted to go with this approach was to basically use myself as a ginny pig. I knew the old way of returning to throwing had a lot of holes in it and I wanted to see how good I could feel and how big of movement changes I could make with this approach.

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Overall it is has gone really well and I am excited to continue progressing in the right direction. As of now I will be having my first pull down day in about five weeks depending on how everything goes leading up to that. Thank you for reading and stay tuned for updates!


- Jared