A counterintuitive thing can happen when people feel overly safe and supported: they tend to take more risks. This phenomenon was detailed wonderfully in Tom Vanderbilt’s excellent book Traffic, among other places. It isn’t hard to understand why: when there’s a big net waiting below, you are far more likely to jump a little farther.
So it is with Tommy John surgery, the wildly popular orthopedic elbow surgery procedure which major league pitchers have been opting for in record numbers. The procedure’s staggering success rate has pushed many pitchers to throw harder at an earlier age, secure in the knowledge that they can hit the “reset” button anytime with a visit to their orthopedic surgeon:
If Tampa Bay Rays left-hander Matt Moore opts for Tommy John elbow surgery as expected, he will be the 13th major league pitcher to have the ligament-replacement operation since spring training. That’s only six fewer than all of last season, and three under the annual average from 2000-2011, according to an industry-commissioned study.
And it’s starting earlier than ever before:
“We mathematically, statistically, scientifically have proven that the kids who play baseball year-round are three times more likely to end up on a surgery table by their 20th birthday that those who don’t,” says Fleisig, citing a 10-year study targeting teenagers who pitch more than 100 innings in a calendar year.
Tommy John surgery is a great advance, and there is no question that it extends careers. But ligaments do not age and strengthen like muscles, and the long-term effects of such optional procedures may yet be unknown in such large numbers. If you have questions about elbow surgery in San Diego, please contact my offices today.