Tommy John Surgery: Baseball's New Performance-Enhancement Technique???

In a recent foray through my Google alerts, up pops a short researched-based piece from the AOSSM (The American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine), Misguided Public Perception on What Tommy John Surgery Can Do Apparent in New Study. Needless to say, this sparked my interest.

It is in reading this AOSSM press release that it really hits home how skewed the public perception has become regarding available procedures for "fixing" sports-related injuries. According to Christopher S. Ahmad, MD (lead author of the study):

"Despite the recognized risk of pitch type and amount of pitches, nearly a third of those we surveyed did not believe pitch counts were a risk factor for injury. Even more disturbing was that fact that a quarter of players and coaches thought that a pitcher's performance could be enhanced by having a Tommy John surgery,"

Hey, here's a novel idea, wouldn't it be better to find ways to help diminish the risk of these injuries rather than using reactive techniques to be performed after the injury has occurred? Supposedly not, according to the study's findings:  

"During the spring of 2010, researchers surveyed 189 players, 15 coaches and 31 parents through either one-on-one interviews or a mail-in questionnaire. An alarming 51percent of high school athletes believed surgery should be performed in the absence of injury with the sole intention to improve performance. Thirty-one percent of coaches, 28 percent of players and 25 percent of parents did not relate pitch type with injury risk. Furthermore, 31 percent of coaches did not believe that the number of pitches thrown was a risk factor for injury to the elbow ligament. A substantial percentage also believed that control and velocity of pitches would be improved by having a Tommy John Surgery performed."

Yes you DID read that right, there are a good number of players and coaches who believe that Tommy John surgery would actually enhance a pitcher's abilities and performance, with athletes also viewing the surgery as a possible elective in the absence of injury - and for the sole intention to improve performance.


You know, I heard similar claims by many about ACL reconstructive surgery of the knee after my high school daughter (as a sophomore) had torn her ACL. The claims went something like this, "she will be stronger after she comes back from the surgery than what she was before."

A half-truth at best, any perceived or actual strength gains and/or performance gains are a direct result of the intense rehabilitation and training that comes after these reconstructive surgeries. It is not a positive outcome of the surgery itself. In other words, all of these improvements would have occurred just through proper training.

To my knowledge, there is no current known surgical technique that enhances an athlete's performance, nor makes them anatomically better than they were before. On the contrary, it would be much better to have your original parts intact and functioning as they were intended; thus, the importance of proper preventive training strategies and techniques over reconstructive-type surgeries.

I would think that taking a more proactive approach to sports and youth sports would be a better route to travel than the reactive surgical techniques needed after it is too late.

Just a thought!!!

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