Justin Showalter

Harrisonburg, VA

Conditions + Treatments

Medical Icon UCL Repair With Internal Brace
Medical Icon Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL) Injury

The Pop
In the spring of 2020, the Covid19 Pandemic shut down collegiate sports including baseball at James Madison University (JMU). I continued to stay in shape by maintaining my training regimen. I joined a county league in order to keep pitching.  I threw only one inning.  In the second to last pitch, I felt a pop in my elbow.  I was not alarmed but took the next week off to give my arm a rest before traveling to the beach for vacation the following week.  When I returned at the next game, I only threw 40-50 feet and realized my right elbow did not feel good.  There was something wrong.

Answered Prayer
I contacted my trainer and was scheduled an appointment with one of the orthopaedic physicians who worked with the athletic program at JMU. Their office was located at the University of Virginia Hospital where I was evaluated.  I vividly remember that moment at the hospital when the medical staff recommended I have the Tommy John surgery to repair my UCL (Ulnar Collateral Ligament).  Here I was a rising junior with hopes to be drafted into the MLB.  I already began the 2020 season as being one of the best years of my collegiate career.  There was a lot of uncertainly.  I was hesitate to follow the path of having the Tommy John procedure due to the lengthy recovery time.   I shared my concerns with my parents.  They were supportive and immediately began to research other options as a solution to my condition.  My family and I prayed for direction during this time.  I turned it over to God and kept relying on the Bible verse, “Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of his servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.” Isaiah 50:10 (ESV version).  

The next steps were crucial decisions that could affect my future goals as an athlete.  I wanted to be sure of the procedure so that it would not delay any future opportunities for the draft.  Everywhere we looked, the Tommy John surgery kept reappearing.  We have even hoped that PRP may be an option but it was not.  After several months, my mom found an article on the internet about an alternative solution called Primary Repair Surgery with a shorter recovery time and not as intense as the Tommy John procedure.  The article highlighted that an orthopaedic surgeon, Dr. Jeffery Dugas, at Andrews Sports Medicine in Birmingham, Alabama was experienced at this procedure.  We felt that this was our answer.

Bama Bound
We contacted Andrews Sports Medicine and spoke with Dr. Dugas’ staff.  I sent my records to Dr. Dugas to review to see if I would be a candidate for the Primary Repair Surgery.  We received a phone call with the good news of qualifying as a candidate and now we were headed to Birmingham.  It was a nine and a half hour drive from Harrisburg, VA to Birmingham, AL so we wanted to be sure.  The staff at Andrews Sports Medicine was amazing.  They helped make all the surgical arrangements, insurance verification and recommended hotels nearby.

The Repair
On the day of the surgery, I was quite nervous.  Here I was a long way from home and had never had surgery.  Dr. Dugas did explain that there were two options for my right elbow UCL Repair being the Primary Repair Surgery or the Tommy John procedure.  He would know more once he began operating on confirming the solution.  He wanted me to be aware of the possibilities.  As soon as I woke up in recovery, I quickly looked at my scars to see which procedure I received. I was so relieved to see my scars were not reflective of the Tommy John.  I realized that I had the other repair done.  Before leaving the hospital, I started physical therapy at Champion Sports Medicine.  The physical therapist provided a plan to take home with me to Virginia and was told to focus more on mechanics initially.

The Comeback
The athletic trainers at JMU were amazed at my results.  Six months post-surgery, I pitched 8 innings and only gave up two hits.  Throughout my recovery, I was grateful to have access to call Dr. Dugas with any questions along the way.   Overall, I learned a lot through this experience.  You definitely loose that superman mentality after having gone through surgery.

Treatment Providers
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Jeffrey R. Dugas, MD
Jeffrey R. Dugas, MD View Bio