Apr 30, 2015
Taming Tommy John

A pair of recent medical developments offer hope for reducing the number of Tommy John surgeries in baseball pitchers and shortening the recovery process for some that are done.

According to Dr. David Geier, an orthopedic surgeon in Charleston, S.C., who wrote an article for the Post and Courier, one of those developments came in the form of an elbow compression sleeve worn by many Major League pictures during spring training. Known as the mThrow, the sleeve contains six sensors placed over the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL), which is replaced during Tommy John surgery. The hope is that the sensors will allow coaches and athletic trainers to better monitor and track stress on the UCL instead of having to rely on pitch counts or changes in pitching mechanics.

In addition, Geier wrote that Dr. Jeff Dugas, an orthopedic surgeon at the renowned Andrews Sports Medicine Clinic, is working on a new approach to the Tommy John procedure. Rather than replacing a partially torn UCL with a tendon, Dugas sews collagen-filled tape to each side of the damaged ligament and anchors it to the bone on each side of the elbow.

The new procedure has only been performed on 30 high school and college pitchers so far, but Dugas says he’s seen good results, with recovery time usually ranging around six months instead of the year or more required for typical Tommy John surgery.

“This is so early I’m being cautious not to tout this as the second coming,” Dugas told NJ.com. “This is definitely early in the process and they could all fall apart tomorrow but the early data is very promising.”

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