E. Lyle Cain, Jr., M.D.
The possibility of needing Tommy John surgery is a dark cloud that hangs over baseball players, especialy pitchers and catchers. Some wonder when, not whether, they will have to undergo the surgery.
For high school baseball players, the rate of Tommy John injuries goes up 9 percent every year despite our awareness of the injury and efforts to prevent it. Mandatory pitch count limits and rest days required by baseball's governing bodies simply aren't working.
To learn more, STACK talked to Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz and Dr. E. Lyle Cain, renown orthopaedic surgeon at the Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center.
There's More to it Than Pitch Counts
"There's this general philosophy that only the strong survive or only elite athletes get to the next level," says Smoltz.
This mindset leads baseball players and their parents to believe that playing more is always better. You might play on several teams during the same season, have skill instruction on your off-days and throw bullpen sessions.
Although you might not throw over a certain number of pitches in a single game, there's a good chance you are throwing throughout the week.
"Everybody looks at game pitch counts, but the reality is any kind of maximum effort pitching, which includes pitching instruction, bullpen to some degree—part of the bullpen includes throwing in live batting situations—and off-season throwing practice and instruction are all part of the same process," explains Dr. Cain.
Bottom line: Young pitchers are probably throwing far more than they realize.
The more you throw...