Annabella Carrascosa – UCL Reconstruction

Annabella Carrascosa – UCL Reconstruction

In my sophomore year of high school, I was doing online homeschool for gymnastics and hoping to get recruited by a D1 college. I started experiencing inner elbow pain, then got the news that I tore my UCL, and needed to undergo Tommy John Surgery. I was referred to Hospital for Special Surgery and got a UCL repair in May of 2021 with a projected 6-month recovery time. During this recovery, I could never fully straighten my arm, do a push-up, or hang on a bar without pain, which are essential for gymnastics. I was getting worried, but kept working around the pain; attempting handstands, doing pull-ups, increasing numbers of exercises, and was determined to make a comeback. I was hoping it would start to feel better closer to the 6-month mark, but it never did and I became very apprehensive. I switched physical therapists to Greg Spatz from Resilient Physical Therapy who sees Tommy John cases frequently. He referred me to Dr. Ahmad because my pain wasn’t common, especially 7 months after a repair.

I came to Dr. Ahmad for a second opinion 8 months after the original UCL repair due to the pain I was still experiencing. He was very thorough with his examination, did an ultrasound of my elbow right away, and ordered a CT scan to get a better look. The results of the CT scan indicated that the repair had failed and that orthopedic hardware was displaced. Dr. Ahmad recommended that a full UCL reconstruction be performed promptly, however he was very honest and didn’t give any guarantees that I would be 100%. I feared a second surgery and the unknown factors of this recovery, after I had given the first one my all.

Before surgery, Dr. Ahmad was very open to hear my opinion about the decision for the graft harvesting site. We decided it would be best to go with the gracilis (hamstring), rather than the palmaris longus (wrist), because of my history of wrist injuries, as well as the demand on upper extremities in gymnastics. The reconstruction was successful thanks to Dr. Ahmad’s expertise, and ability to perform well in different surgical cases. After surgery, Dr. Ahmad was cautious with my recovery due to the nature of a second surgery, but also supportive in my return to sport protocol. This would not be possible without my physical therapist, Greg, who communicated with Dr. Frank Alexander, Fiona Nugent, and the rest of Team Ahmad, and carefully developed an individualized plan with return to sport specifications. After being out for 2 years, I am so grateful to be practicing again and getting my skills back much faster than I could have imagined. I have hopes to be a walk-on for a college gymnastics team. My greatest regret throughout this journey was not having Dr. Ahmad as my original surgeon.