It appears that Major League Baseball (MLB) pitchers are better off taking things easy after getting ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) surgery, unless they want to jeopardize their game. According to Medical News Today, a team of researchers have discovered that UCL surgeries can decrease a player’s performance if he or she returns to the field too early. The researchers came to this conclusion after reviewing more than a hundred MLB pitchers’ earned run average (ERA), walks and hits per innings pitched (WHIP), and other figures after their surgeries:
Of the pitchers undergoing UCL reconstruction surgery 87 percent returned to the Major League level. Of the pitchers that returned, they had a statistically significant decline in their ERA (P=0.001), WHIP (P=0.011), Innings Pitched (0.026), compared to pre-reconstruction performance. Reconstructed pitchers also had a statistically significant decline in their pitching performance in the season before their surgery (ERA p=0.014, WHIP p=0.036, Innings pitched p<0.001, Win Percentage p=0.004).
They also discovered that about 60 percent of the League’s pitchers already require UCL reconstruction within the first five years of their careers. Considering the necessity of such a procedure in the Major League, it’s crucial for orthopedic surgeons to perform a UCL surgery correctly and efficiently. Steadman Hawkins Clinic Denver, which has a team of experienced Denver orthopedic surgeons, understands that botched surgery doesn’t only end with poorer player performance; it could also end an athlete’s career altogether.
UCL reconstruction is also known as ‘Tommy John surgery’, named after the Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher who was the first to receive this treatment in 1974. In it, the ulnar collateral ligament, a muscle which connects the humerus to the ulna, is replaced by another tendon taken from somewhere else in the body. Although baseball pitchers are the ones most likely to require Tommy John surgery, practically anyone who experiences regular stress and trauma to the elbow is bound to visit an orthopedic surgeon in Denver or elsewhere for this treatment, including gymnasts and cheerleaders.
Aside from carrying out the actual procedure, surgeons also guide their patients during the rehabilitation process. Generally speaking, the arm that was treated will have a reduced range of actions and motions, and perhaps a sling will be necessary for the first month. However, the arm must also be exercised so that it will regain its strength, so a balance between the two must be achieved during rehab.
At least for the MLB, this means careful coordination between the surgeons and the trainers, which is the only way to prevent complications from arising after a UCL surgery.
(Source: Elbow surgery risk may be increased by early entry to Major League Baseball, Medical News Today, July 14, 2014)