Most Tommy John surgeries are performed on teenage baseball players
HARTSELLE, Ala. (WBMA) Andrew Nuss goes through the motions as he stands on the pitcher’s mound in the same public park where he started playing baseball when he was five years old.
Over the years, he’s developed quite a fastballreaching speeds of 87 miles an hour.
Andrew, who’s 18 now, hopes to play major league baseball. That’s why he had Tommy John surgery last May to replace the torn ligament in his elbow.
“I wasn’t going to be throwing any harder with the UCL and tears and damage to it, Nuss told ABC 33/40 News. “So, I decided to get it fixed to step my game up more to play in college and maybe professional if that door’s opened.”
Doctors say overuse leads to the injury that requires Tommy John surgery
Nearly 57 percent of Tommy John surgeries are performed on 15 to 19-year-old baseball players. The main cause: Overuse as kids play and practice year-round.
Andrews Sports Medicine’s Orthopedic Surgeon Lyle Cain, M.D. has performed more than 1,000 Tommy John surgeries on amateur and professional baseball players, including Andrew. He sees a risky trend in youth baseball.
“It’s too many pitches,” Dr. Cain said, “It’s too many games during a year. It’s high velocity. Probably mechanics factor into it, and then ultimately not having any rest.”
Lisa Nunn is Andrew’s mother. They live in Hartselle, in North Alabama where baseball is kingwhere players dream of playing college and major league baseball.
“I think that they’re trying so hard,” Lisa Nunn said. “They’re seeing all these local people that are having luck that are being drafted, that are playing college ball. And I guess as parents we try to support them but we don’t know when to pull back.”
Andrew is going through physical therapy as he tries to build back his strength in hopes of playing college baseball. Next month, he begins his freshman year at Mississippi State on an academic scholarship.
He plans to study agribusiness. But playing major league baseball is still a dream he believes that’s worth chasing.
“It’s definitely at the top of my list,” Andrew Nunn said. “I would definitely love to be paid for something I love. If you find a job that you love, like baseball, it won’t be work for you. It’ll be fun.”
Tommy John surgery has a 85% success rate.
Younger players are able to get back to competition after about 12 months of rehab.
But it's best to avoid the injury that leads to surgery.
Here's how, according to Andrews Sports Medicine.
Reduce the number of pitches you throw
Give your arm a break by reducing the number of pitches you throw. In fact, Alabama is one of the first states in the nation to limit the number of pitches high school and even seventh and eighth graders throw. You also have to take three days off if you throw more than 75 pitches in a day.
Take a four-month break
Andrews Sports Medicine recommends a four month break from any sport to give your body time to recuperate, let ligaments heal, and let muscles return to full strength.
Get a pitching biomechanics evaluation
And if you have dreams of playing professional baseball, get your pitching mechanics analyzed. If a pitcher is able to generate arm speed using his entire body, then less force and torque will be placed on his throwing arm. That reduces the chance of injury.
The cost: about $500 at the American Sports Medicine Institute in Birmingham. But it’s cheaper than surgery.