Concerning Trends Show a Rise in Arm Surgeries for Ball Players of all Ages

WFUV News—August 23, 2014

Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez had a great rookie season last year and that might be an understatement.

The Cuban athlete was selected for the National League All-Star team, won the NL Rookie of the Year Award, and struck out almost 200 hitters, but this season hasn’t gone as planned for the 22 year-old.

Fernandez suffered an arm injury in early May that needed Tommy John surgery, and he won't pitch again until next season.

Many squads have started limiting the number of pitches and innings a pitcher can throw during the season, but even with teams putting restrictions on how much pitchers throw, the number of Tommy John surgeries is still high.

While Major League ball clubs can control the innings and pitch counts of pitchers at the professional level, they aren't able to monitor how much a player throws in youth leagues. Over the long period of time playing in Little League, tournaments with travel teams, high school ball, college ball, the minors, and eventually the majors, doctors have said that stress on the elbow ligament can wear down and tear.

"The kids now see baseball as a way to get a college scholarship, so now kids play year-round and have travel teams, and so I think throwing so much is definitely the reason for it," said Dr. Joshua Dines, a sports medicine orthopedic surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery.

The American Sports Medicine Institute studied the number of baseball related elbow injuries that resulted in the surgery from 1994 to 2011. But rather than look at professional athletes, they focused on ballplayers in youth leagues and high school.

Dr. Frank Cordasco, a sports medicine orthopedic surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery, said there's no doubt that he and other sports specialists have seen more teens having the procedure.

"I think one of the major factors associated with this injury is associated to fatigue," Cordasco said. "The fatigue can come from a single game, a season, or just year-round playing."

Read the full article on wfuv.org.

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