Lakeview Private Hospital helps elite baseball player realise his dream
Elite college baseball player Luke Wilkins was pitching for the Sydney Blue Sox as part of the Australian Baseball League when he felt a sharp pain in his elbow. With his sights set on playing in the upcoming season in the United States, Luke feared the worst.
“I felt it go and I knew then it was genuine. All I could think about was being able to play for the Washington Wild Things — it means everything to me to be there,” Luke said.
Luke saw the team physio who did an MRI and promptly referred him to Lakeview Private Hospital specialist orthopaedic surgeon Dr Manish Gupta. The MRI revealed a rupture of the anterior band of the medial ulnar collateral ligament from its origin at the medial epicondyle at the humerus.
“The UCL is the primary elbow stabiliser and some sports place enormous pressure on it particularly throwing sports such as baseball,” explained Dr Gupta. “The repetitive nature of high impact throwing can cause continuous strain and degeneration on the ligament and eventually it may rupture.”
Dr Gupta’s first recommendation for this condition empirically is to treat the injury with an appropriate course of rest and physiotherapy. However, the time for recovery could be protracted, taking a year or longer, and the approach is unlikely to allow return to competitive baseball pitching. Surgery was offered as an option that would hasten recovery and allow return to sports earlier, with an eye on competing in the USA in a few months.
Given that the injured ligament looked to be of good quality without significant signs of degeneration or scaring on the MRI scan, a full ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) reconstruction with biologic graft, commonly known as Tommy John Surgery, was not considered necessary. Instead, it was decided to perform a surgical repair with synthetic graft augmentation of the UCL. This option would allow the native tissue to heal, would be stronger earlier, and allow a more rapid return to sports.
Dr Gupta explained, “A full UCL reconstruction where the UCL is replaced with a tendon from another part of the body is surgery that takes eight to twelve months to recover from – time that Luke simply didn’t have to spare. The benefit of this approach for Luke is that it facilitates early return to throwing and pitching, without burning the bridge of a full reconstruction in the future if it ever became necessary; which I am confident it will not!”
Luke is well on his way to a full recovery having gained strength and range of motion very quickly through a sports physiotherapy program. Importantly, he is on track to realise his dream to play in the upcoming season in the USA.
Dr Gupta is an orthopaedic surgeon with a special interest in treating shoulder, elbow and wrist disorders. Dr Gupta specialises in minimally invasive techniques and has extensive experience in arthroscopy, micro surgery, open reconstruction and joint replacement procedures. He also has expertise in the management of fractures and musculoskeletal trauma including children’s injuries. Deeply committed to research and innovation, Dr Gupta strives to ensure he provides patients with the most up to date care available. He is a member of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, The Australian Orthopaedic Association, The Australian Society of Orthopaedic Surgeons, The AO Foundation and The Royal Society of Medicine (UK).