March 29, 2015
Mention the name Tommy John and the odds are somebody will mention elbow surgery. Too bad. Tommy was a terrific Major League pitcher who won 288 games over a remarkable 26 year career with 6 teams. If he had won a measly 12 more games to reach the magic 300 plateau, we'd probably be calling him Hall of Famer Tommy John.
When we hear his name it’s all about the dreaded surgery which knocks a pitcher out of commission for at least an entire baseball season. And the numbers are alarming.
A medical primer: Tommy John surgery is when an elbow ligament is replaced with a tendon from somewhere else in the body.
But the question remains, why do so many pitchers need the procedure? Aren't Major League pitchers subjected to pitch counts that help to avoid stress? To get the answer, I went to the source and asked Tommy John himself.
Tommy said, "The injury is caused by overuse, but not at the pro level. At 6 to 17 years of age. He blames parents more than anyone else. He says "Parents buy into the BS that their little All-star should take pitching lessons so he can make the XYZ travel team."
He suggests kids should follow the advice of the experts like Dr. David Altchek. "6 months on, 6 months off." But Tommy says "these parents think they know more than the orthopedic surgeons. It's not about throwing 130 pitches in a game but 12 month pitching from the age of 6 to 17."