Tommy John Surgery on the Upswing; MLB Strikes Back

If you don’t keep up with Major League Baseball, you may think “Tommy John Surgery” is a current player taking the league by storm. Unfortunately it’s the name of an operation rising at an alarming rate.

You may ask, “Who is Tommy John?” and “What is Tommy John Surgery?”

Tommy John is a former MLB pitcher who played from 1963-1989. Four decades ago he became the first person to undergo the surgery that now bears his name. He had the operation 12 years into his career and enjoyed 14 more seasons following his recovery.

Image via MLB Reports

Tommy John Surgery is a surgical procedure in which a healthy tendon is extracted from an arm or leg then used to replace an arm’s torn ligament. The healthy tendon is looped through holes drilled into the bone above and below the elbow.

The number of MLB players undergoing the procedure has continued to rise; some even feel the operation gives them a competitive advantage. A survey conducted a couple years ago revealed that 25 percent of all major leaguers and 15 percent of minor leaguers have undergone the surgery.

In an effort to reverse the trend, the MLB has released a series of pitching guidelines called Pitch Smart.  Among the bountiful resources found on the website is the league’s recommendations on “pitch count” and “days of rest” by age.

Want to “Pitch Smart”? Obey this chart!

Image via MLB Pitch Smart Guidelines.

The phrase: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” can best sum up the advice of Arkansas Specialty Orthopaedics shoulder and elbow specialist, Dr. Michael Hussey.

“Ultimately, the best treatment for this injury is prevention,” said Dr. Hussey.  “Teaching young pitchers early, the basics of good throwing mechanics and following strict pitching guidelines, will help to reduce the number of injuries, and ultimately surgeries that are performed.”