How To Prevent Tommy John Surgery

Although there is no guaranteed method to prevent Tommy John Surgeryyou can greatly reduce your chances of ever having to undergo this procedure by learning the proper training and maintenance for pitching. Being educated about Tommy John Surgery and learning the proper training procedure is a far better alternative than going ‘under the knife’. Rehabilitation is a long and sometimes painful process and can take you out of the loop at a critical time in your career.

What Is Tommy John Surgery?

Tommy John Surgery or Ulnar Collateral Ligament Reconstruction as it is known in the medical world, was first performed in 1974 by Dr. Frank Kobe on Tommy John, a famous major league pitcher. It is  “a surgical graft procedure in which the ulnar collateral ligament in the medial elbow is replaced with a tendon from elsewhere in the body.” (wikipedia)


It is generally associated with throwing too often or an incorrect throwing motion. Symptoms can include pain, a feeling of looseness, numbness in the fingers or inability or decreased ability to throw. Although some people claim that it can be the result of throwing one incorrect pitch (Stephen Strasburg), the general sentiment is that an incorrect throwing motion over the course of time is the culprit. Simply put, the incorrect motion causes the bones in the elbow to move apart and the UCL keeps them together. The long term result is a tear in the UCL.

Tommy John Surgery

Tommy John Surgery

5 Myths About Tommy John Surgery

According to Mike Rienold, PT, DPT, SCS, ATC, CSCS, an expert in the field of sports medicine, rehabilitation, fitness, and sports performance, there are 5 common myths about Tommy John Surgery.

1) Everyone Returns From Tommy John Surgery

Wrong. About 83% of pitchers return to their previous level of better. Recovery is not guaranteed.

2) There Are No Complications From Tommy John Surgery

Wrong. There are some complications from almost every surgery. It seems that about 20% of Tommy John Surgery recipients experience some form of complication, although most of them are minor.

3) Recovery From Tommy John Surgery Is Quick And Easy

Wrong. It usually takes about a year of concentrated rehabilitative training before most players can return to their former level.

4) Velocity Improves After Tommy John Surgery

Wrong. There seems to be no significant increase or  decrease in velocity after Tommy John Surgery. Of the pitchers that do experience an increase in velocity, industry experts attribute it to the increased and specialized training the athletes undergo during rehab.

5) All Post Tommy John Surgery Rehabilitation Is The Same

Wrong. Every case is different. Some people rehab quicker than others but the bottom line is that no two people are the same and every case has to be treated on an individual basis. There is no blanket program and the gradual progression to a full throwing motion must be overseen by an expert.

Preventative Training – Be Proactive

As Dr. Chris Mckenzie explains, because of the fact that there’s such a focus on velocity at an early age, especially prior to puberty, the growth plates aren’t closed and we may be training beyond the physiological limits of our bodies. Add to that the sheer number of pitches that multiple season pitchers throw, that cumulative stress over the course of several years could easily result in the UCL tear. Preventative training, (the type that will strengthen and increase velocity safely) is critical.

Probable causes of UCL Tear

As mentioned earlier, there are several probable causes of the UCL tear; throwing too hard, throwing too often, an incorrect throwing motion or a combination of the above. The throwing motion needs to be a fluid motion initiated from the legs, through the hips and torso and then to the arm. At this point it’s critical not to put too much strain  on the elbow. All of the power generated from the legs, hips and torso is where velocity comes from. You may have heard the expression before “pitchers that are all arm” are the most likely to be Tommy John candidates later in their careers.

Tommy John Surgery

Will He Be The Next Tommy John Surgery Candidate

Parents Need To Get Involved

Everyone loves a winner and everyone loves to win, but when there’s too much emphasis on winning and not enough emphasis on the proper training procedures, it’s critical for parents to get involved and be proactive about your child’s safety. I have seen (thankfully) parents who wouldn’t let their son pitch even though it was a critical game and would have meant a state championship. I applaud this decision and the courage it took. This particular parent stepped up and made some enemies in the process – bravo. Not an easy thing to do, but what would you rather have; a twenty dollar trophy or a healthy child!


Preseason Preparation

Perhaps the best place to start is prior to the season. Developing a preseason throwing program and adhering to that program is the most important factor. In this day and age of multiple season athletes, it’s critical that kids and parents know exactly how to prepare for the stress that a young player’s arm will endure. And that means being informed about how often a player pitches and how many pitches they throw; not only in a game but through the course of the season.


Regular Season Training

During the regular season, it’s important for kids to warm up correctly and be training in a manner that will strengthen the arm and not injure it. Again, an incorrect throwing motion over the course of time is an invitation to Tommy John Surgery, or at least a rehabilitation program. Remember, preventing an injury makes more sense than treating one! Kids need to warm up, train and cool down properly.

Pitching; Effective Velocity, Visual Velocity And The Radar Gun

Pitching velocity can be broken down into three categories; effective, visual and actual as clocked by the radar gun. These three types of velocity are the key factors of a pitcher’s success. Keep in mind that pure velocity alone (as clocked on the radar gun) is not sufficient to conquer the better hitters. Obviously, anyone that can’t catch up to a 95 mph heater will succumb, and…having that type of heat in a pitcher’s arsenal is certainly an eye catcher for pro scouts, but some of the best pitchers in the MLB can barely break 90 but no one can touch them.

Why is Koji Uehara, the Red Sox ace closer, so untouchable yet his fastball regularly clocks in around 89 mph? The answer lies in several factors. First of all, he paints the corners very effectively and he rarely ever walks a batter. Secondly, his splitter is devilishly deceptive, often making hitters look silly. He doesn’t need to blow the ball by hitters a la Paplebon or Rodney. But the way that hitters ‘see the ball’ is what lies in the key to his success.

Visual velocity is how the hitter perceives the ball, not what come off the radar gun or actual velocity. This has to do with the pitcher’s release point in relation to his stance and stride. For the ball to come out of his grip late in the motion results in a decrease in reaction time for the hitter. Remember, any top hitter that has a good look at a fastball (regardless of mph) will give it a ride.

Pitching is a game of cat and mouse and so many factors come into play, speed, location, what a hitter is sitting on, the count, the caliber of hitter etc. Sometimes a pitcher can throw his best stuff and not take a great hitter out. I’ve seen Adrian Beltre dig a low and away breaking ball out of the dirt and deposit it over the fence. That’s something every pitcher will encounter and needs to learn how to deal with.

Effective velocity, is a relatively new science to the game and deals with the speed of a pitch in relation to location over the plate. The rule of thumb is that 6 inches relates to about three mph on a lateral plane. So high and inside might equate to 93 on a 90 mph pitch whereas low and away might equate to 87. It is not the intent of this article to go into depth about the different types of velocity, rather to make pitchers aware of the concepts.

Being a good pitcher involves so much more than just throwing the ball hard. One needs to be a student of the game and study the hitters and their tendencies as well as having an arsenal of effective pitches used correctly. The more you learn about the position, the more you realize how much there is to learn. And it never stops.


Baserunning; Always Look For An Edge

As a baserunner, the most important aspect of  ‘if and when you steal’ is knowing the pitcher; that’s why we say when baserunning, always look for an edge. The problem is that most players don’t study the game and particularly the pitcher to see if he has any tendencies  prior to pitching or picking. It’s critical for hitters and baserunners to acquire any knowledge about a pitcher.

Watch The Pitcher

When you’re in the dugout, you need to be watching the pitcher for any repetitive motion that can tip you off as a batter or a baserunner. It’s easier with some than others but all pitchers have some tell tale signals, even at the professional level. Does he set before he attempts the pick, does he look down or look at the pitcher, can you see his grip on the ball or does he hide it. Does he follow a particular cadence before he throws? Are his tendencies the same from the stretch as from the windup? If you know any of these traits it can give you a tremendous advantage. Finding these tendencies can give you enough of a jump to make the difference between a steal and a putout.

Know The Catcher

It’s equally important to know the catcher as it is the pitcher. Some catchers are almost impossible to run on with a fastball but if you know an off speed pitch is coming then it gives you a better shot.

How Long Is The Pitcher’s Motion To The Plate?

Knowing how long the pitcher’s motion to the plate is will give a heads up as well. The famous sequence of Ellsbury stealing home on Andy Petite was so full of detail and every piece of the puzzle had to fall in place. It’s more of a science than ever meets the eye. The Red Sox had to time Petite’s motion to the plate, how long it took Ells to run from third to home, how much of a lead he needed, and most important, the precise moment to take off.

(check out this article by ‘The Republican’  writer Dan Lamothe)  http://blog.masslive.com/redsoxmonster/2009/04/anatomy_of_jacoby_ellsburys_st.html

It was more difficult to do with a left handed batter at the plate because that gave catcher Jorge Posada a clear view of third. Petite said after the game that he saw Ells jump out of the corner of his eye and tried to speed up the windup but it was already too late. It’s a good thing Drew didn’t swing!

Baseball Is A Science

Baseball is a game of split second timing and more preparation than luck. It is a science, and the more you learn about the game, the more you realize HOW MUCH MORE there is to learn! Be a student of the game and remember, always look for an edge!

Power and velocity start in the legs

Power and velocity start in the legs

So How About Your Proximal-To-Distal Kinematic Sequencing?

You know what proximal-to-distal kinematic sequencing is, right? Don’t worry, first time I’ve ever heard of it also. This somewhat less than frequently used term refers to the initiation of motion in the legs for baseball/softball players. Bottom line is that the power and velocity are originally generated from the legs. There fore, when looking for an off season training regimen, DON’T forget your lower body. I ran across this article and it’s definitely just a touch on the technical side and maybe not the best reading in the world, but it emphasizes what most experts agree on regarding power and velocity.


It’s Too Soon To Think About Spring

For the World Series Champion Red Sox, maybe so….but for the high school or college player that hasn’t played fall ball, definitely not. You need to take time off after the season to recuperate and regenerate and basically take a break from the game. However, players need to get a jump start on the season (especially in the colder climates) with some indoor sessions. Your body needs close to a month to regain that peak performance. If you want to be on the top of your game early in the season then you need to think about your off season training program at least one to two months before opening day. If you can’t find an indoor baseball facility, then just find a space somewhere.

What’s The Best Training Program?

There’s plenty of opinion about what’s the best program for off season and that varies greatly depending on the condition of the athlete. That being said, here are some categories of exercise you don’t want to overlook.

  1. Dynamic Stretching. Absolutely Critical! Before any workout, make sure you warm up your body properly. 10 – 15 minutes of dynamic stretching will increase your body temp and get the blood flowing. This not only gets you ready for more strenuous exercise but it will also help to prevent injuries.
  2. Start Off Slow. Rome wasn’t built in a day! Start off with a mild workout and build it up over several days to two weeks.
  3. Strength and conditioning. Whatever your level make sure you work the upper and lower body, leg drive is crucial to power and velocity. Also, a good core workout should definitely be part of your regimen.
  4. Speed and agility. A lot of players forget that mobility is key. Work on some ladder drills and quick feet.
  5. Long Toss. One of the most important features of a strong throwing arm is a regular long toss regimen. While you can’t go out in the middle of the winter and not everyone has access to an indoor field, there are multiple drills that simulate long toss.
  6. Get In The Cage. Definitely get in the batting cage as often as possible but take the time and spend some money on making sure your swing is correct. Find a good batting instructor because you don’t want to reinforce bad habits. Get to an indoor baseball facility and practice!



I Couldn’t Say It Better; Congrats To The 2013 AL East Champs

I just read this great post about the Sox and had to pass it along. I would have been happy to repost it here but that’s an infraction to the duplicate copy regulations set forth by Google.

Go here and check out this piece and enjoy.   I couldn’t say it better.  http://ftw.usatoday.com/2013/09/boston-red-sox-clinch-beards-old-man-strength/

Boston Strong

The 2013 Red Sox are the team of dreams. They’ve given hope to more than just ardent baseball fans. People all over the country support Boston Strong as a testament to the power of freedom and the imdomitability of the American spirit. Their season long support of those afflicted by the marathon bombings has polarized the city and the nation.

PED’s and O-U-T.  That should be the policy of the MLB. Hurrah to Mike Trout and Jonny Gomes for speaking out on the subject of ARod and PED’s. Consider this; cancer cures smoking. Sounds harsh doesn’t it, but the bottom line is that as long as players have an out they’ll continue to cheat, and that’s what it is – CHEATING.

I’d like to hear from people that are sick and tired of the MLB soft-shoeing their way around the issue. The recent suspensions don’t demonstrate a staunch position. It’s more like “We caught you but we’ll only give you a slap on the wrist”. Lance got more than a slap and so should all of the MLB players who think that artificial enhancements to their abilities are ok. THEY’RE NOT OKAY and it’s time to fess up! The fans and honest players deserve better.

It’s all about money and down the tube with integrity.

Random and mandatory testing for PED’s minimum four times a year. You test positive and you’re O-U-T. Simple as that. If a player knew he was up against a life time ban, then he’d have to think long and hard about PED’S… AND… if anyone WAS stupid enough to continue the practice in light of such a ban then they deserve to be on the outside looking in.

These players make scads of money based on the premises of dedication and committment, not cheating. I don’t want my son to emulate a cheater. The sheer arrogance of ARod and Clemons is disgusting.

How do we classify our Hall of Famers; with an asterisk?

Time to end all of the baloney. Put up or shut up. You get caught using PED’s and you’re O-U-T. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Respectfully submitted,

Steve C

The Upper Valley Baseball Academy website is an online presence for the UVBA,
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