“It’s probably the best decision I’ve made in my career so far.”

-Garrett Richards

There’s finally some hope for the Angels after they’ve been experiencing a rough 2016 season. This Saturday, before a 6-1 victory over the Blue Jays, pitcher Garrett Richards threw a few pitches off the mound for the first time since injuring his Elbow in May! This is significant because just four short months earlier this pitcher was “dead set” on having ligament replacement surgery.

What’s also significant is that this pitcher decided to opt for a less popular approach, Stem Cell Therapy. If it wasn’t for Stem Cell Therapy the only other alternative would have been surgery, which would have kept him on the sidelines for the entire 2017 season!

When the pitching was taking place for Richards he was only throwing at 80% effort. He was also only going to throw 20 pitches. However, it’s a definite step in the right direction for the Richards.

The surgery that Richards was going to endure is called Tommy John Surgery.

Tommy John Surgery

Tommy John Surgery is a surgical procedure to repair an injured elbow ligament. In majority of cases, this surgery is done on college and pro athletes, particularly baseball pitchers. However, it’s sometimes done to younger people as well.

This particular surgery is named after former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher, Tommy John. Back in the 1970s Tommy was the first one to go through with this type of surgery. To put it simply, a surgeon replaces the injured UCL with a tendon taken from a different part of the body.

What is the UCL

The UCL, or the Ulnar Collateral Ligament, is located inside of your elbow joint. This particular tendon connects the upper arm to the lower arm.

We mentioned before that anyone can get a UCL injury, but in most cases injuries occur when there is repetitive stress on the ligament.

If you’re a baseball pitcher, for example, you’re constantly twisting and bending your elbow while throwing. This constant motion puts extreme stress on your UCL. Over time you begin to develop tears in the ligament. As years of abuse to the UCL take place the ligament stretches to the point where it can’t hold the bones tightly enough during throwing activities.

What are some UCL Symptoms?

Symptoms for an Injured UCL don’t seem to be severe and the injury doesn’t seem to interfere with too many other activities. However, pitchers are significantly affected. While you are suffering from this injury you can still:

  • Pursue daily living activities
  • Go to the gym
  • Drive
  • Run
  • Play other sports
  • Swing a baseball bat

However, if you’re suffering from a torn UCL you won’t be able to pitch any more baseballs.

Common symptoms include:

Pain coming from the internal elbow joint

  • Elbow instability
  • Tingling and numbness in the ring finger
  • Decreased ability to throw objects.

The stress that you put on your elbow while you throw objects, including baseballs, is just too much for an already injured elbow to endure. For that reason, you cannot throw objects while you have an injured UCL.

Stem Cell Therapy

If you injure your UCL you would most likely choose a treatment that didn’t require recovery time, didn’t require surgery, didn’t require pain and allowed you to get back to your life fast!

This was the same idea that Garrett Richards had a few months ago when he first chose Stem Cell Therapy. Although Tommy John’s surgery has allowed numerous athletes to heal after a UCL injury, time was of the essence. Many athletes can’t afford to sit an entire season on the bench. He wanted a solution that put him back in the game within a few months.

Stem Cells were injected into the affected area. Instead of replacing the injured UCL with another ligament and waiting for the joint to heal, stem cells were introduced to the area. The cells have healing properties, which healed the damaged ligament.

Now, only 4 months later, Richards says:

“I can honestly say I don’t notice the difference in the way the ball is coming out of my hand now as it did in spring training. My body feels great. My arm feels great. It’s probably the best decision I’ve made in my career so far.”