Views on Pitchers' Elbow Surgery Called 'Disturbing'

Survey finds effect of pitch counts underestimated, benefits overestimated

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SATURDAY, Feb. 19 (HealthDay News) -- Many young baseball players, parents and coaches have serious misconceptions about the causes of pitching-related elbow injuries and the benefits of having a common elbow procedure called Tommy John surgery, according to a new survey.

Ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction is the medical term for the surgery, named after former Major League pitcher Tommy John, the first professional athlete to successfully undergo the procedure.

"Despite the recognized risk of pitch type and amount of pitches, nearly a third of those we surveyed did not believe pitch counts were a risk factor for injury," the survey's lead author, Dr. Christopher Ahmad of Columbia University's Center for Shoulder, Elbow and Sports Medicine, said in a news release from the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine.

"Even more disturbing was the fact that a quarter of players and coaches thought that a pitcher's performance could be enhanced by having a Tommy John surgery," Ahmad said.

He and his colleagues surveyed 189 players, 15 coaches and 31 parents. They described as alarming their finding that 51 percent of high school players believed elbow surgery should be performed even if a player doesn't have an injury, with the sole goal of improving performance.

The survey also revealed that 31 percent of coaches, 28 percent of players and 25 percent of parents did not relate pitch type with injury risk, and that 31 percent of coaches did not believe that the number of pitches thrown was a risk factor for elbow ligament injury.

A substantial percentage of survey participants also believed that a player's control and velocity of pitches could be improved by having Tommy John surgery.

The findings were to be presented Feb. 19 at the society's Specialty Day program in San Diego.

More information

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons has more about elbow injuries caused by throwing.

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