In light of the rash of Tommy John surgeries/UCL injuries this year in Major League Baseball, it seems rather appropriate that we pass along the interview conducted with the esteemed Dr. James Andrews on MLB Network Radio. In it, Dr. Andrews -- the most frequently used surgeon for the Tommy John procedure among MLB players -- discusses what's causing the uprising in the torn UCL. And it may not be what we previously thought.
Here's the full clip and for those who can't/don't want to listen, I'll throw in some highlights below.
I'm glad Dr. Andrews discussed this because there seems to be some public perception that either A) These pitchers nowadays aren't as tough as the good ol' days or B) "Back in my day, we didn't baby the guys and worry about pitch counts!"
Well, yeah, but back in our day, there was an offseason. Back in my day, I played football in the fall and basketball in the winter. Now kids are pressured into playing year-round, lest they fall behind the other hot college/pro prospects. But don't listen to me. Listen to the Doctor.
"We've researched it in our lab as well as our foundations in Birmingham and Pensacola and the big risk factor is year-round baseball," Dr. Andrews said. "These kids are not just throwing year-round, they're competing year-round and they don't have any time for recovery."
"Year-round baseball is number one," Dr. Andrews said in terms of Tommy John risk factors. "Number two is playing in more than one league at the same time where rules don't count [presumably innings limits or pitch counts]. In showcases for scouts, they try to overpitch and they get hurt. Poor mechanics continues to be a problem. Throwing breaking balls at an early age is a problem because it's a high neuromuscular control throwing action that young kids can't quite properly throw so the mechanics get them."
Dr. Andrews also said he met with someone recently who had an issue in his elbow that probably started when he was about 12 years old and used this as an example that a minor injury in one's youth sets him up for a major injury when he's an adult.
"The radar gun is always a problem, too, because these kids are always trying to throw 90 miles per hour," he added.
Dr. Andrews actually said that kids throwing harder than 85 miles per hour in high school are going beyond the "developmental properties" of the human body at that age and that going over that is a major risk factor.
Again, take a listen to the whole thing. It's very interesting and should make any parent of a high-octane pitcher think twice about the year-round baseball thing.
If nothing else, we can probably stop worrying about this nonsense that adult pitchers these days are babied and needed to throw more when they were growing up. They did throw more. And now they're paying for it.
Hat-tip: Baseball Think Factory