It has long been known that the orthopedic elbow surgery procedure known as Tommy John surgery can help restore many baseball pitchers’ speed and accuracy on the mound. But that doesn’t mean the procedure is without a downside or potential for complications: indeed, as with any procedure, it’s not uncommon for a certain percentage of patients to heal without ever regaining the full effectiveness of their youth.

Now a new study has found a clue why this might be: there is a strong correlation between years played and the need for Tommy John surgery, suggesting that wear, and not age, is the primary determining factor:

About 60 percent of the pitchers who required UCL reconstruction had the surgery within their first five years of being in the major leagues. Compared to pitchers who did not have the surgery, those who underwent the procedure had more major league experience at the same age, which suggests that arm stress from earlier major league experience contributed to the elbow damage, the study authors said.

Athletes should read such statistics as a warning about the value of proper care and maintenance, especially if your job entails throwing a ball almost a hundred miles an hour on a daily basis. Good stretching, warmups, warm-downs, and plenty of rest can help mitigate some of the erosive effects of pitching on the ligaments in your arm.

But if the time comes that Tommy John surgery is recommended, be sure and see an expert San Diego orthopedic surgeon. Please contact my offices here to learn more about elbow surgery, recovery, and management.

© 2023 Dr. Robert Afra – San Diego Orthopedic Surgery Shoulder – Knee – Elbow