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Elbow surgery for teens

WABC—New York—July 30, 2008

With the Major League Baseball All-Star game just past, a lot of young ballplayers are anxious to perform like their idols. Unfortunately, more and more are becoming injured. For one young pitcher being scouted by the pros, an elbow injury nearly struck out his career. But surgery is getting him back on the mound.

Sixteen-year-old Jonathan Lucas has been pitching for most of his life. But he’s not doing much of it any more: Lucas is currently sidelined following a tear in a major ligament in his elbow. Fortunately, there is surgery to repair the tear, a common problem for players who are big for their age.

"Increased force on the elbow leads to greater injury," said David Altchek, M.D., of  Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. "The harder you throw, the more likely you are to get injured. The bigger you are, the more velocity you can generate, probably the more likely you're going to get injured."

Dr. Altchek repaired the tear with a wrist tendon graft he used to reinforce the ligament, creating a double-ply repair. Lucas should be able to play again after rehab.

"The last study we did, on 100 consecutive of these operations, we got 93 percent of the pitchers back to the same level or above," Dr. Altchek said. "So odds are good that he's going to come back."

Lucas will probably return to throwing in about four months, but it could take up to a year for him to return to pre-injury form.

This story originally appeared at 7online.com.


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