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Tommy John Surgery: The Plague of Baseball

Tommy John surgery was performed on 4x MLB all star Tommy John in 1974. Dr. Frank Jobe , who passed away earlier this year, was the first to perform the surgery and claimed the injury to be “career threatening”. Surgery is needed when the ulnar collateral ligament is torn and is replaced with a tendon from the forearm. However, Tommy went on to pitch until 1989, which is considered “miraculous” that his career was not shorten by the injury.

37 years later, St. Louis Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright was a victim of Tommy John Surgery. The injury occurred in Spring Training, and caused him to miss the championship year of the Cardinals. Wainwright made his return in 2012, but he was not the same.

Wainwright went 14-13, with a 3.94 ERA. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that the return from injury from Wainwright was rushed, but luckily for the Cardinals, their ace returned to form. Last year, Wainwright went 19-9 with a 2.94 ERA in 2013. So far in 2014, Wainwright is 7-2 with a 1.85 ERA. Safe to say he returned to form.

Brian Wilson is known as one of more entertaining, yet dominate closers in the game. In the year where his San Francisco Giants ultimately won the World Series, Wilson was injured his elbow in the first week of the 2012 regular season. Tommy John Surgery was required for Wilson and his season was over before it got started. Sergio Romo took Giants closer role and ran with it. As a result of Romo’s effectiveness, Wilson’s contract was not renewed by the Giants. Midway the 2013 season, Wilson signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers as a form of “you will regret this decision later”.

Mets young ace Matt Harvey’s career was on the rise. When the All Star Game resided in New York in 2013, Harvey was selected to start for the National League. On August 26, Harvey was placed on the disabled list for an unspecified elbow injury at the time, then it was revealed that Harvey had a partial tear in his ulnar collateral tear. Harvey wanted to rehab before opting for surgery, but that was not to be. On October 22, the surgery was performed and as of now, Harvey is slated to miss the 2014 season.

Speaking of 2014, this year has seen future stars go under the knife. We are only in May and 38 pitchers and 1 hitter have undergone Tommy John Surgery. Here are some notable names:
Martin Perez (TEX)
A. J Griffin (OAK)
Pedro Figueroa (TEX)
Jose Fernandez (MIA)
Ivan Nova (NYY)
Josh Johnson (SD)
Matt Moore (TB)
Jameson Taillon (PIT)
Bobby Parnell (NYM)
Cory Gerrin (ATL)
Brandon Beachy (ATL)
Kris Medlen (ATL)
Patrick Corbon (ARI)
Bruce Rondon (DET)
Jarrod Parker (OAK)
Luke Hochevar (KC)
Cory Lubke (SD)
Miguel Sano (MIN, only position player)

As scary and unfortunate as it sounds, this list could very well expand. Baseball fans really want to see this problem be resolved, but is there really a solution to this problem? Can pitchers deliveries be less violent? Or do the pitchers need to cut the mileage on their pitches? Those are potential things that could stop this plague of surgeries. A lot of digging and investigating is needed to conquer this issue, and hopefully it will be found.

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