October 5, 2013

Lets Learn About Tommy John Surgery

Its a term that we Mets fans unfortunately hear on a pretty regular basis.  Tommy John Surgery.  But what does it mean and where did it come from?  One thing most people do know is that the surgery is named after Los Angeles Dodgers' pitcher, Tommy John, who first had the procedure in 1974.  By definition, the surgery repairs damage to the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) which connects the humerus to the ulna.  Upon injury, the player often experiences pain in the elbow, numbness in the fingers and a their ability to throw is severely impacted.

The surgery is completed by making a series of small incisions and tunneling into the affected area.  Tissue that has been harvested from another portion of the body (or a cadaver) is then grafted onto the injured ligament, completing the repair.

Post surgery finds the player completing a series of range of motion exercises after only a few weeks.  Within months its time to start rebuilding strength in the injured joint and finally about six months later a throwing program is implemented.  If all goes well, which is the case three quarters of the time, the player should be throwing pain free nine to twelve months later.


Last Fall, Jeff Zimmerman of Beyond the Boxscore took a look at the history of Tommy John Surgery within major league baseball.  First and foremost, here is a look at just how much more frequent the surgery has become over the years:

As anyone can tell, the surgery has become much more prevalent.  Zimmerman also went on to compare how it has impacted each team, at both the MLB and MiLB levels:

While the Mets number of undoubtedly gone up this season, with the injuries to both Jeremy Hefner and now Matt Harvey, the team still finds itself in the middle of the pack overall.  Fans should try to rest easy knowing that Harvey's elbow will be in the skilled hands of renowned surgeon, Dr. James Andrews, later this month.  

Now you know how it works and know what to expect over the next year, lets hope that Harvey finds himself in that lucky three quarters who return to their previous form.  The surgery has gotten better, but only time will tell.

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