31 October 2012
Tommy John Surgery
Snap, crackle, and pop. Those aren't the sound of rice crispies in milk; it’s the sound a pitcher hears after tearing his ulnar collateral ligament. This injury used to be career ending but is now almost standard. This has saved countless dreams for many baseball players of not just playing baseball but to have complete function of their right arm. Today, sports fans and athletes hear the term Tommy John surgery and don't flinch. There are currently 29 active ballplayers in the major leagues who have already have had Tommy John surgery. That includes the Chicago White Sox' pitcher Philip Humber, who pitched has a perfect game. Another is the Colorado Rockies' Jamie Moyer, who is the oldest pitcher in the majors to record a victory in the major leagues at age 49. This surgery has not only resurrected pro careers and helped define history, but it has also helped countless athletes continue to do what they love despite such a catastrophic injury.
Ulnar Collateral Ligament Reconstruction surgery, which is its medical name, is a grafting procedure in which doctors take tendons from another part of the body, like the forearm, hamstring, hip or knee and replace the ligament in the elbow with the other grafted ligament. Two holes are drilled into the arm bones and the replacement “ligament” is woven between the two holes like a figure 8. This injury is caused by a repetitive throwing or over head motion such as throwing a baseball or swinging a tennis racquet.
The surgery itself is named after Tommy John, a former pitcher and the first to undergo the operation. On July 17, 1974, he was pitching for the dodgers when it happened.
"I had runners on first and second. I was trying to get the batter to hit a sinker to get him to hit a ground ball so I could get two and get out of the inning unscathed. I threw a
Cited: Cole K.C. “Readings for Writers” Entropy (2012) pg 420