More Teen Baseball Players Undergoing Tommy John Surgery

Jim Liebelt | Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University | Monday, July 20, 2015

More Teen Baseball Players Undergoing Tommy John Surgery

*The following is excerpted from an online article from U.S. News & World Report.

Most Tommy John surgeries to fix elbows torn in sports-related injuries are being performed on teenagers, especially baseball pitchers, and the numbers are rising every year, a new study reports.

Tommy John surgery fixes a torn ulnar collateral ligament, or UCL. The UCL is located on the inside of the elbow and connects the bone of the upper arm to a bone in the forearm.

Teens between ages 15 and 19 accounted for nearly 60 percent of all Tommy John surgeries performed in the United States between 2007 and 2011, the study said.

Kids these days are playing sports year-round, and often specializing in a single sport to improve their chances of getting a scholarship or making the big leagues, said lead author Dr. Brandon Erickson, an orthopedic surgery resident at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

"The more pitches kids throw and the faster they throw seems to put them at increased risk for elbow injury," Erickson said. "Kids are throwing harder and more often than they had in previous years, and it puts additional stress on their arm."

Sports medicine experts chalked up this increase to overuse.

"A lot of these younger players are being pushed to perform at a younger age, and in some areas of the country they are playing year-round," said Dr. Barry Boden, a sports medicine specialist at The Orthopaedic Center in Rockville, Md. "There's a lot of competition out there, and a lot of people who want to make it to the top. They are pushing their bodies to the limit."

The study findings were to be presented this week at the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine's annual meeting in Orlando, Fla. Findings presented at meetings are generally considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Injuries that require Tommy John surgeries often occur in baseball players, especially pitchers, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). In fact, the surgery is named after major league pitcher Tommy John, who was the first professional baseball player to have the surgery, in 1974.

In the procedure, surgeons replace the injured UCL with a tendon taken from the player's own body, usually either the forearm or the knee.

Source: U.S. News & World Report