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Avoiding Surgery on Your Pitching Arm

Avoiding Surgery on Your Pitching Arm

Baseball fans of the 1970s and 1980s remember Tommy John as a southpaw who won 288 games throughout his career. Fans of the contemporary game hear “Tommy John” and automatically think of the dreaded surgery that bears the former hurler’s name.

Tommy John surgery is a procedure that replaces a ligament in the elbow with a tendon from another part of the body. It’s almost exclusively a surgery done on a pitcher’s throwing arm. It was first performed in 1974 on Tommy John himself.  When the surgery was first undertaken, there was a miniscule chance of a pitcher ever throwing in a major league game again. Today, with advancements in rehabilitation techniques, the chances of a complete recovery are more than eighty percent.  It’s not, however, a quick recovery process. It can take several months to a year before a player is fully recovered and ready to take the mound again.

John Smoltz, the former Atlanta Braves great, missed the 2000 season after having the surgery. He returned in 2001 before he transitioned to the bullpen. Smoltz pitched into his 40s before retiring.  Smoltz, who is the only pitcher in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame who has undergone Tommy John surgery, has been very outspoken about the perils of performing the surgery on young players.

During his Hall of Fame induction speech, Smoltz said “It’s not normal to have a surgery at 14 or 15 years old.”  While the success rates have increased, it is still true that surgery on a young arm could affect the rest of that player’s baseball career, as well as the opportunity to play other sports. At Addison Sport’s Clinic, we want to avoid surgery if at all possible. We look at alternative methods to help you recover and recuperate.

Before surgery should even be considered, a pitcher with a potentially injured elbow should rest before undergoing physical therapy. The Addison Sports Clinic is the ideal place to begin the rehabilitation process. The facility is equipped with a large gym and weight room, with trainers who will develop a focused plan to begin the rehabilitation and recovery process. If a sports injury is bothering you and hindering your game, let us look at it and give you a second opinion.