Tommy John Says Year Round Baseball Not Healthy
Tommy John, whose 288 career victories rank as the seventh highest total among left-handers in Major League Baseball history and who Tommy John surgery is named for, told a group of sports medicine specialists in Cooperstown over the weekend that year round baseball is resulting in more children suffering injuries that require surgery. John addressed a group of providers in Cooperstown May 19 at a symposium hosted by the Bassett Shoulder and Sports Medicine Research Institute.
John noted that when he played for the Los Angeles Dodgers, the season had a definite beginning and end. “Even as a pro, I put the glove away when the season was over. Over use is the problem today and the reason so many young players are undergoing Tommy John surgery,” said John. “I don’t believe in kids throwing year round. Year round baseball is what’s wrong and that’s why they’re getting injured. Let kids be kids. We need to educate parents, coaches and the kids.”
“The mechanics of pitching put tremendous stress on a baseball player’s shoulders and elbows,” notes Dr. Jocelyn Wittstein, who led the May 19 session at the Otesaga Resort Hotel. “Today, with so many children starting sports at an early age – nine years old in the case of Little League – there is a real potential to suffer a debilitating injury as a teenager. So the medical world needs to understand throwing mechanics, overuse injuries, and how to prevent and treat those injuries. At Bassett, we are studying these injuries in young athletes so that we can better understand, prevent and treat them.”
In 1974, when the Los Angeles Dodgers were enroute to their first National League pennant in eight years, pitcher Tommy John ruptured the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his elbow. The injury led to a revolutionary operation, now known as Tommy John surgery, in which the UCL is reconstructed. The ligament in the elbow of John’s pitching arm was replaced with a tendon from his right forearm. At the time, John’s’ injury was thought to be career-ending, but he went on to pitch until 1989, winning more than 160 games after his surgery. Today, Tommy John surgery is very common, with one in seven major league pitchers undergoing the procedure.
In addition to Drs. Tally Lassiter and Jocelyn Wittstein of the Bassett Shoulder and Sports Medicine Research Institute, the faculty for the May 19 session in Cooperstown included Dr. Robert Arciero, director of Orthopaedic Sports Medicine at the University of Connecticut; Dr. Champ Baker, program director for the Hughston Foundation, Inc.; Dr. David Berkoff, associate professor for the Department of Orthopaedics at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; Dr. Todd Lawrence, pediatric orthopaedic surgeon at the University of Pennsylvania; Dr. William Levine, co-director of the Center for Shoulder, Elbow and Sports Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center; Dr. William Mallon, editor-in-chief for the Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery; Dr. Luke Oh, team physician for the Boston Red Sox and New England Revolution; and Dr. Michael Whiteside, assistant professor of Radiology at Albany Medical College. For more information about the Bassett Shoulder and Sports Medicine Research Institute, visit www.bassett.org.
Dr. Jocelyn Wittstein, of the Bassett Shoulder and Sports Medicine Research Institute with Tommy John at a symposium in Cooperstown on overuse injuries organized by Wittstein, who leads the Institute’s research efforts.