The number of Tommy John injuries that have claimed pitcher’s 2014 seasons has seen a significant increase with no true explanation as to what the reason for the uptick may be.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have had the good fortune of not seeing one of their pitchers go down this season, but they do have two pitchers on their roster who have undergone the arm procedure in their careers — Chad Billingsley and Brian Wilson, with Wilson having the ligament surgery done twice.
With the rise in the injuries, Dodgers head athletic trainer Stan Conte along with, Dr. Glen Fleisig, the research director at the American Sports Medicine Institute, physical therapist Dr. Kevin Wilk and Dr. Neal ElAttrache, have sought to dispel the notion American-born pitchers are more susceptible to the Tommy John surgery.
According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, results from a survey conducted by Conte and his team of researchers found no connection between the injury and a player’s nationality:
We saw no difference,” Conte said. “At the end of the day, when you look at who has had Tommy John surgeries, country doesn’t seem to have a significant importance.
As for finding a solution to remedy the issue, Conte placed an importance on patience as the research has only been conducted for two years:
People say we should do something,” Conte said. “We are doing something. This research is two years old. We’ve been doing these things. And we’ve been trying to answer these questions. But we can’t have a knee-jerk reaction (when we) find something, run out and tell everybody and then maybe find out, ‘Oh, that wasn’t true.’
Some MLB pitchers have been fortunate to fully recover from the surgery; Wilson appearing to be one of the cases based on his 2013 results, however it may be discovered otherwise if he continues to struggle this season. While others, Kerry Wood for example, were forced to alter their careers because of the surgery.
The league-wide epidemic largely remains a mystery without any definitive precautions that can aid in the avoiding of injuring one’s ulnar collateral ligament. Zack Greinke recently disclosed a decrease in the number of sliders he throws per game in an effort to preserve his right elbow.
Conte and his group of researches may not find the answer to avoiding Tommy John surgeries, but at the very least, they may be on the path of proving wrong the perception American-born players are more likely to fall victim to the injury.
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