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The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

Pitchers look to surgery for success

Jonny Venters is one of the only pitchers to ever receive Tommy Johns surgery three times.  He had the operation performed in 2005, 2013 and lastly in 2014.
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Jonny Venters is one of the only pitchers to ever receive Tommy John’s surgery three times. He had the operation performed in 2005, 2013 and lastly in 2014.

 

In the past few years pitchers have been throwing faster than ever before, reaching speeds of 100 miles per hour. However this great show of athleticism comes with several health risks, one of which being the need for Tommy John surgery.

Tommy John surgery is a baseball-focused operation in which a torn UCL is repaired. The doctor attempts to swap the torn tendons in a pitcher’s elbow with healthy ones from elsewhere in the body, usually from the leg. The physician drills two holes, one in the upper and one in the lower bone of the arm, where the healthy tendon will be inserted.

After the operation has been performed, the pitcher must recover for 12-18 months. Depending on how bad the tear was, pitchers may need all 18 months or only 12-14 months. Recovery time relies mainly on the severity of the injury and how fast an athlete’s individual body is able to bounce back.

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Tommy John surgery was first performed in 1974, nearly 50 years ago. The first recipient was a pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers, named Tommy John, who had the operation after he tore his UCL in the middle of a season. After Tommy John’s success with the surgery, several other pitchers decided to try the revolutionary innovation.

Since 1974, almost 2,400 MLB pitchers have received Tommy John surgery. With this new breakthrough pitchers could add many years to their career. Back in the early 1900’s, a torn UCL meant the end of a player’s time in the MLB, but now it is seen more as just the start.

Newscasters and other baseball professionals have even called Tommy John surgery an entrance ticket to the MLB. About 35% of current pitchers have had the surgery and that number is only rising. Certain players even decide to get the surgery prematurely to fend off the injury as long as possible. The prevalence of the surgery among pitchers does make it feel like a rite of passage into the MLB.

Notable players who have had the operation performed include Jacob deGrom, Walker Buehler, Adam Wainwright, Dustin May and countless others. Shohei Ohtani has even had the surgery performed twice, which is not uncommon. A player may get the surgery done early in their career, for protection, and then again much later when they eventually tear their UCL. However, Ohtani is still relatively young at 29 years old, and has lots of baseball ahead in his life. So he might even need the surgery a third time.

Tommy John surgery has allowed players to greatly lengthen the duration of their careers, increasing the overall amount of money they can earn. With this surgery, pitchers can prolong their careers, helping teams to keep their star players around for longer. 

“I think that Tommy John is great because after the surgery pitchers are able to throw harder and it saves their arms,” freshman baseball player Drew Joncas said.

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