MLB Pitcher Stephen Strasburg Will Require Tommy John Surgery
Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg announced today that due to a significant tear to his ulnar collateral ligament, he will require “Tommy John” surgery and will miss the next 12 to 18 months of play.
Athletes Involved in Throwing Sports At Greatest Risk
After throwing a changeup in the fourth inning of Saturday’s game, Strasburg grabbed his arm and winced in pain, according to a report in the New York Times. Although the original diagnosis was a strained flexor tendon in the forearm, the organization today announced that an MRI revealed the ligament tear. Strasburg intends to get a second opinion in California, but if the diagnosis is confirmed, he will have the surgery immediately.
The ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) of the elbow is critical for stability and plays an important role in most throwing sports including baseball, racquet sports, ice hockey, and javelin. In baseball, the acceleration phase of an overhead throw causes the greatest amount of stress to the elbow. Repetitive throwing motions are the most common cause of UCL injury.
The “Tommy John” surgery gets its name after the first professional athlete to undergo the procedure in 1974. The medical name of the surgery is technically an UCL repair. The surgeon performs the reconstruction by replacing the damaged UCL with a tendon harvested from somewhere else in the body.
With all surgeries, there is a risk of complications, the most common being infection or nerve damage.
Although some studies indicate that up to half of the patients treated with UCL reconstruction are left with a loss of full motion, according to the NY Times report, about 90% of major league pitchers who have undergone Tommy John surgery return to the game successfully. Nine of the pitchers selected for the 2010 All-Star game have undergone the surgery.