The Washington Post

Tommy John can’t believe all these MLB players are having Tommy John surgery

(Associated Press)

Former major league pitcher Tommy John, so renowned for his recovery from elbow ligament-replacement surgery in the 1970s that the procedure is now named for him, told a civic group in Watertown, N.Y., that he’s surprised at the number of Tommy John surgeries this season.

“It’s unreal. John told the Italian American Civic Association, as reported by the Watertown Daily Times. “And it’s crazy that they would pick 2014 to be an epidemic year, it seems like guys are going down right and left.”

Per ESPN, “Brandon Beachy (Padres), Patrick Corbin (Diamondbacks), Luke Hochevar (Royals), Josh Johnson (Padres), Kris Medlen (Braves), Ivan Nova (Yankees) and Bobby Parnell (Mets) are among the pitchers this season to have been sidelined with elbow-ligament injuries that require Tommy John surgery.”

John, who resides for part of the year in Watertown, said the problems start at a young age.

“What I would like to see these guys do, these surgeons and all,” said John, “is ask all the guys who have had the surgery — how much did you pitch as a kid and how often, and did you pitch year round? And nowadays, probably 70 to 80 percent of the pitchers today have been pitching 12 months a year since they were seven, eight or nine years old. And your arm is not made for that.”

John, who owns a baseball school of his own, tries to discourage youth and teenage pitchers from throwing all year long.

“They’re taught to throw a lot when they’re young,” John said. “And then it just builds up and builds up until they’re like 24, 25 or 26 and their ligaments weaken. And they keep throwing and keep throwing — and it’s a shame.

“Throwing pitches in the big leagues will not hurt your arm,” John said. “It’s what you did down the road when you were younger.”

After having the surgery in September 1974, John missed the entire 1975 season before returning in 1976 and pitching 14 more seasons, making three post-surgery all-star teams and ending his career with 288 wins.


After spending the first 17 years of his Post career writing and editing, Matt and the printed paper had an amicable divorce in 2014. He's now blogging and editing for the Early Lead and the Post's other Web-based products.
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