Friday, May 2, 2014

Whats Behind the Tommy John?

In case you have never heard of Tommy John, he was a pitcher in MLB that had 288 victories.  Half those victories came after he successfully had a surgery performed by Dr. Frank Jobe to repair his ulnar collateral ligament.  Since that time, this surgery has been known as Tommy John surgery.

Recently there has been a lot of concern about the frequency of this surgery.  There are a few thoughts on why the possibilities are increased.  Guys are throwing harder.  Guys are throwing at an earlier age.  Guys are throwing harder, earlier.  Some are even turning to the surgery, when rehab may be option.

There is usually a week or two of forearm tightness that pitchers have acknowledged trying to "get through."

Most of the strength and conditioning coaches I know that have contact with MLB players will privately acknowledge the lack of conditioning in players.  The culture is very different from NFL and other professional teams, where guys work crazy hard to develop their physical preparation for their sport.

Mike Reinhold wrote a blog post last month on why he thinks there is an increase in Tommy John Surgery. 

This was recently researched from the University of Florida, by Dr. Kevin Farmer.  Showing that hip mobility will have an influence.

One of the reasons that many pitchers don't fear the surgery is that it is 85-90% successful.  Most throw harder after the surgery.  This is not contributed to the surgery though, but to the rigorous rehab that takes place after the surgery.  This time table is usually 12-15 months for pitchers and 6 months for position players.

The question becomes, if you know it is so prevalent, why not do things to strengthen the ligament?  We have aggressive ACL preventative programs to strengthen hips/hamstrings and landing mechanics.  Why not use something like Functional Range Conditioning to lightly stress the area over and over.  Stress, adapt, recover, repeat.

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