The talk of the town so far this season is the Tommy John surgery epidemic. Every day it seems like another pitcher is going down with an elbow problem and needs the famous elbow reconstruction surgery. This year, we have seen 18 pitchers have the surgery with the latest notable victim being Miami Marlins’ phenom Jose Fernandez. The question everyone is asking now is why is this happening and how can we prevent this trend from continuing?
The Yankees are taking a very cautious approach to protecting their prospects from the elbow epidemic. An example of how the Yankees are treating arm injuries right now is pitching prospect Bryan Mitchell. The 23-year-old righty was shut down April 25th with elbow discomfort. Even though he said it wasn’t a sharp pain, the discomfort was telling enough that he should not be pitching until his arm feels normal. Trenton Thunder pitching coach Tommy Phelps explained how they don’t allow their pitchers to throw until they are pain free, and each is required to rehab whenever they are inactive due to soreness.
If they have any soreness or any discomfort, they aren’t going to throw,” Phelps told Nick Peruffo of The Trentonian. “The trainer gets ahold of him and does what he has to do to get them back to where he is feeling healthy. If the strength is there and the flexibility is there, we start him on a throwing progression to build him up.”
I have the fortune of training with one of the premier strength and conditioning specialists in the country in Eric Cressey. With over 80 professional athletes coming to Massachusetts every off-season, he clearly knows his stuff. Luckily for me, Eric specializes in baseball training and has produced what feels like a million collegiate baseball players from the New England area. If you are not familiar with Eric’s work, head on over here and check him out. After seeing the Tommy John surgeries pile up over the years (myself included), I was curious to get his take on why this is happening. At the end of the day, it’s not one specific thing, but rather multiple factors that are causing the outbreak in elbow injuries. Here is his list of 10 factors that lead to Tommy John surgery nowadays.
9. More and more guys are trying to “just get by” with lower grade injuries by taking cortisone shots, popping NSAIDs, etc. The problem with these is that they weaken the soft tissue structures over time and may contribute to a more significant injury down the road.
A very special thank you to Eric Cressey for his input in creating this article.