Posted by: Footler PJ2 APR 2014
A recent report in the American Journal of Sports Medicine noted the benefit of ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction (UCLR) when performed on major league baseball pitchers. Researchers evaluated UCLR pitchers between 1986 and 2012 using a number of performance-based statistics and compared them with matched controls. The study concluded that 83 per cent of UCLR players were able to return to compete in the major league, that they had significantly improved pitching performance and that their careers, on average, lasted an additional 3.9 years.
The operation is known as Tommy John surgery, after the pitcher Thomas Edward John Jr. Tommy John made his major league debut in 1963 but his most successful years began when he joined the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1972. In 1974, the LA Dodgers were en route to their first national league pennant in eight years when John permanently damaged the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching (left) arm. This is a common elbow injury in pitchers, typically caused by overuse. Surgeons operated to replace the ligament in his left elbow with a tendon from his right forearm.
Although it seemed at the time unlikely that he would ever be able to pitch again, John spent the entire 1975 season in recovery learning a completely different pitching technique. His successful return in 1976 was considered miraculous.
He continued to play for the LA Dodgers and later for the New York Yankees until 1989, by which time he was the oldest player in the major league. His 288 career victories rank among the best for left-handers in major league history.
John retired in 1989 when Mark McGwire got two hits off him. McGwire’s father was John’s dentist. John commented, “When your dentist’s kid starts hitting you, it’s time to retire!”