Doctors concerned over number of Tommy John surgeries in teenage athletes

July 5, 2018 / BaseballSports Medicine
Doctors are increasingly concerned over the number of Tommy John surgeries in young athletes, and to combat the problem they say athletes need to quit specializing.

Southern California chiropractor and wellness coach Dr. Tommy John — the son of former pitcher Tommy John for whom the procedure is named — has written a book titled, “Minimize Injury, Maximize Performance.” In it, he blames the injury epidemic on the grueling year-round regimen that specialized athletes are put through, including camps, tournaments and travel programs.

John points to a study that found 57 percent of Tommy John surgeries are done in athletes 15 to 19 years old.

“It shouldn’t be necessary,” John told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “The success rate after Tommy John surgery is not good. You don’t want this surgery, especially if you have it in your teenage years.”

From the article:

In South Florida, Drs. Randolph Cohen and Eric Eisner have observed the trend in their U18 Sports Medicine practice at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood.

They attribute it to the increased emphasis on kids specializing in a single sport at a younger age and being pushed to perform on travel teams and to pursue college scholarships and the elusive dream of a pro contract.

“The biggest issue is that there’s an overall kind of irrational push by parents on children who are playing sports for such long hours and such long durations and such great repetition that we’re seeing an increase in the injuries in children than say we saw 20 years ago, where injuries like that were much more rare,” Cohen said.

“They just can’t take that repetitive type of consistent pounding on their bones, joints and ligaments without developing an inordinately high rate of injury that ends up ending their career and curtailing what they are capable of doing.”

Former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz railed against specialization during his Hall of Fame speech in 2016.

“People think you have to play year round to be able to eventually play professional baseball or basketball or football. That’s simply not true,” Smoltz said. “I love where I grew up. Seasonal changes meant seasonal sports. I played three of them. The opportunity to get outside and play sports is one of the greatest things kids have.”

Click here to read more from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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