Tommy john surgery is the repair of ulnar collateral ligament of elbow. It is named after the pitcher from LA dodgers to get this surgery done in 1974 for the first time.
This is a very big topic with lot of myths like after surgery you could throw even faster and harder which has been proven completely wrong.
Recently as the need for speed has risen among young athletes these surgeries are becoming more common.
Not only the need for throwing hard but also doing so without proper mechanics, without proper warm up and proper conditioning is also a contributing factor.
Role of throwing curve balls at an early age before skeletal maturity has been regarded a contributing factor
but certain researches are finding that there might be no correlation. see reference:
If you walk around the baseball fields during the baseball season and watch pitchers you could see the variety of pitchers throwing different ways with ultimate main goal of throwing hard.
Not only the young pitchers are at risk of causing damage to the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) but the Major league pitchers are also in the news frequently even though they have full squad of sports physicians, trainers etc.
My perception is that there should be focus upon full body conditioning, special focus upon throwing mechanics and proper routine before pitching in the game especially in the cold evenings.
As the biometrics is taking over our sports where teams select bigger kids especially hitters, young pitchers strive to throw harder hurting themselves in the process sometimes. Advancement in equipment like composite bats and other material is also making harder for pitchers so they want to throw harder to get ahead in the game.
There are some steps taken by certain organizations to change the bat composition to maintain a balance b/w bat and ball.
Eventually the onus is on coaches and parents to talk to their young pitchers if they notice any early signs of discomfort before the serious damage is done.
As some young pitchers would not complain even if they are hurting. One needs to be a good coach to spot these signs.
Some signs could be shaking of the pitching arm after every pitch, sudden loss of speed and accuracy, sudden change in throwing mechanics to compensate for the painfully joint etc.
Injury to throwing arm could be minimized by proper warm up before pitching, adequate resting period b/w days of pitching.
There are certain group muscles of shoulder and forearm needs to be strengthened to put less strain at the Ulnar collateral Ligament on the medial inner side of elbow.
Please talk to an Occupational therapist Physical therapist with experience in upper extremity rehab. to evaluate your son/daughter as soon as the pain develops. They can guide you with proper rehab. program to make faster recovery and them back on the field with confidence and help them achieve full potential safely.
Occupational Therapist / Certified Hand Therapist