Leading elbow and shoulder sports orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews, among two other top surgeons in the field, said the frequency of ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction surgery performed on young people has reached epidemic levels.
“The number one group is youth baseball having more surgeries, more than the professionals,” said Andrews, who is based in Gulf Breeze in the Florida Panhandle.”
At one point, a torn ulnar collateral ligament meant the end of a pitcher’s career. The condition rendered the thrower unable to pitch with the same control they had before the injury.
“This ligament is not strong enough for baseball to begin with; it was not intended for that,” Andrews said.
Since then, the procedure has exploded in popularity among amateur and aspiring pitchers, many in high school or college and some as young as 10.
Here is a program I developed to prevent Tommy John Surgery:
- Proper Warm-up and Stretching: Encourage young pitchers to perform a thorough warm-up routine before every practice or game. This should include dynamic stretching exercises that target the muscles used in pitching, such as the shoulder, elbow, and forearm.
- Focus on Proper Mechanics: Emphasize the importance of proper pitching mechanics from an early age. This includes maintaining good posture, using the legs and hips for power, and avoiding excessive stress on the arm.
- Limit Pitch Counts and Rest: Implement pitch count limits and ensure adequate rest between pitching appearances. Following guidelines set by organizations like USA Baseball and Little League can help prevent overuse injuries.
- Strength and Conditioning: Encourage young pitchers to engage in a well-rounded strength and conditioning program. This should include exercises that target the entire body, with a focus on building core strength, stability, and flexibility.
- Listen to the Body: Teach young pitchers to listen to their bodies and recognize signs of fatigue or discomfort. Encourage them to communicate with coaches and take breaks when needed to avoid overexertion.
- Cross-Train and Play Multiple Sports: Encourage young athletes to participate in a variety of sports and activities. This helps prevent overuse injuries and promotes overall athleticism and coordination.
- Proper Nutrition and Hydration: Educate young pitchers on the importance of proper nutrition and hydration for optimal performance and injury prevention. A well-balanced diet and adequate hydration support overall health and recovery.
- Deep Reem sleep-7-10 hours.
- Relaxation techniques – breathing in specific ways has been shown to calm down the nervous system and aid in recovery.
- Daily recovery practices such as contrast showers, ice baths, passive stretching-hold each stretch for 30 seconds, diaphramatic breathing, meditation, and going for a walk in nature.