For those of us that follow baseball, it seems like every time we turn around another pitcher is going down with a major injury. The most recent notable name is Matt Harvey from the New York Mets. Like many before him, he started having pain with pitching while experiencing decreased velocity and poor control of his pitches.
After visiting with several doctors, he was eventually diagnosed with an Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL) tear of his elbow. After seeking advice from several other pitchers with a similar injury, including the Phillies’ Roy Halladay, he eventually decided to undergo “Tommy John Surgery” or UCL reconstruction. Rather than try non-operative treatment, he elected to undergo surgery to maximize his chances at returning to the mound and be as competitive and dominant as he once was.
These clinical scenarios are not only common, but they can get a lot of media attention depending on the caliber of the pitcher involved. With increased attention, increased misconceptions are developed as well usually because a lot of the medical information is interpreted out of proper context. Lately, in my office, I’ve been seeing a lot young pitchers with minimal elbow pain and discomfort terrified that they may need Tommy John Surgery and miss a year of pitching. I’ve had other pitchers, and even parents and coaches, ask if they should have Tommy John Surgery in the absence of an injury, in efforts to try to increase velocity and control.
I would like to provide some facts about UCL tears and Tommy John Surgery and dispel some of the myths as well.