The Arm by Jeff Passan
The Tommy John Epidemic
The increase of Tommy John surgeries is a multi-causal problem with a multi-faceted solution.
In 2014, with the high-profile elbow injuries to Jose Fernandez, Patrick Corbin, Matt Moore and many others, much attention was paid to many of the contributing factors to Tommy John: overuse of young pitchers and year-round pitching, we highlighted the role that arm fitness might play in stemming the tide of injuries.
“What hasn’t been discussed much by media outlets are the possible contributions of the surrounding musculature to help dynamically stabilize and protect the ulnar collateral ligament. However, there are significant peer-reviewed research findings that strongly suggest that the pronator-flexor mass in the medial forearm play a large role in protecting the UCL and therefore the elbow”
With any multi-faceted solution, there is no “one answer”.
But, we believe the solution with the most leverage is the education of coaches and parents throughout our youth and high school communities.
Read Driveline Baseball’s position on Tommy John surgery here.
The Casey Weathers Story
Casey’s story highlights what is possible with tenacity, an effective program blending performance and rehabilitiation/recovery, plus luck.
The story is 100% his own making, and we are honored to have facilitated his return to competition. But Casey is an incredible person first, driven, thoughtful and humble, and a good athlete second.
In a 12-month journey back to competition after nearly 20 months of rehabbing and poor performance what matters most is not being physically ready, it’s being mentally able to handle the many mini-failures along the way.
If you want to learn more about the many ups and downs of trying to come back from multiple Tommy John surgeries, we have written two articles highlighting his journey.
Restoring What Tommy John Took
The 2015 Season: Importance of Arm Health
The video of Casey throwing 105.8 mph that got him signed by the Indians.
He hit 107.8 this year.
So What Is The Solution?
This is the most natural question to reading the (very difficult) descriptions of the pain both Todd Coffey and Daniel Hudson endured.
The reality is we do not know.
Dr. James Buffi’s work provides what is the most realistic progress in the field of performance plus health.
He details the problems with the common inverse dynamics method of assessing torque, stress and injury risk in a two-part series:
Part 1: Challenges with Typical Biomechanical Analyses of Pitching
Part 2: A More Forward Approach to Understanding Pitching Biomechanics
The rest of Dr. Buffi’s work is well-worth a read.
How Muscles Work to Protect a Pitcher
Why Overuse May Not Be Baseball’s Biggest Problem
Why Sir Isaac Newton is Still the Foremost Expert in Pitching Biomechanics
Can Forearm Pronation Prevent Tommy John Surgery?
Can Imaginary Exercise Make a Pitcher Better?
Initiatives like MLB’s Pitch Smart to reduce instances of overuse and pitching-while-fatigued in young pitchers combined with better awareness of proper arm fitness and effective coaching of throwing mechanics could yield dramatically positive results.