Saturday, May 10, 2014

"An Old Surgery Gets a New Wave of Participants" by Bojo

     When Tommy John surgery, or in technical terms, a UCL reconstruction surgery, was first completed a number of decades ago, it was a virtual God-send for major league pitchers. The surgery, which brought back pitchers from the baseball dead for the first time, seemed like a miracle to player and fan alike; but part of that was the rarity with which it was attempted or needed.

     However, the surgery is not all that rare anymore. With a peak in 2012 of 36 players undergoing Tommy John, there have already been (as of this writing) 15 players under the knife this season, in only 2-ish months of baseball. In the 15 seasons, before that, there were only 20 UCL surgeries performed on major leaguers. 

     What gives?

     There are a number of theories out there, but I personally subscribe to two. The first theory is that many players these days seems to opt for the surgery quickly after an injury instead of a long-term rehab plan, regardless of the intricacies of their specific injury. The results seem to support this option positively, so do what you have to do, I suppose.

             Typical modern Tommy John recipient Matt Harvey

     The second theory, and the one I personally put the most stock in, is that kids grow up playing baseball year-round these days, something no other generation has done. Not trying to compare myself to major leaguers (I wouldn’t ever) but I am 24 now, the same age or older as many Tommy John patients, and I played on a competitive year round baseball team in middle school, and then on the high school team. Even my arm, which was used minimally compared to these major league players, has some serious wear and tear on it. If I had continued year-round baseball, who knows what would have happened. 

     Because I doubt year-round travel baseball teams will ever stop now that they have been well established over the past decade or two, this frequency of surgeries might just be a part of the modern game, strangely enough.