Tommy John Surgery has become a major problem for young pitchers. Proper prevention and understanding what causes the problems that result in Tommy John is essential for a pitcher’s health.
(Sounds of pitchers warming up)
Clemen: For most pitchers, there is an ever-lurking term that can frighten even the boldest hurlers. Tommy John. Once known for his sinker ball and prowess as a major league pitcher the man is now most famous for the surgery named after him.
Clemen: Tommy John is a surgery that involves replacing the ulnar collateral ligament in the elbow and is remarkably common in baseball pitchers. This year alone 31 major league pitchers had Tommy John surgery according to CBS Sports New York.
Clemen: Athletic trainer Jessica Christensen explained why the surgery is so common for pitchers.
Christensen: “The first step is to look at the population of who normally gets it. So you normal population is overhead athletes. If you look at the force when you go into a pitching motion you lead with you body, then you lead with your shoulder, and then your elbow and then your hand follows and so you are creating this huge tension on your elbow”
Clemen: The KU baseball team takes great lengths to prevent the need for Tommy John. KU staff certified athletic trainer Ken Wainwright explains how they go about that.
Wainwright: “We basically have a pitch count. Early in the season the pitch count is a little lower and then as the season progresses the pitch count goes up a little bit. After that, it’s a lot of strengthening. A lot of it is based on shoulder, and I know we’re talking about the elbow but everything starts with the shoulder when you’re talking about a pitcher.”
Clemen: Christensen says that prevention starts at a young age.
Christensen: “So your prevention comes when your dad is teaching you how to throw or your little league coach is teaching you how to throw a fastball. That’s when your prevention in your mechanics really needs to start.”
Clemen: Wainwright states the importance of young players avoiding the curveball
Wainwright: “Do I think it’s a good idea to be throwing a curveball at a young age? No. I think at that age you need to be working on controlling the fastball, maybe mixing in a little bit of the changeup. Spinning the ball at that age is probably not all that necessary.”
Clemen: For Home Town Nine, I’m Jacob Clemen.