Health First | Tommy John Surgery

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Professional baseball pitcher Tommy John…known for his 288 career victories in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s and also for the surgery named after him to repair a ligament in his pitching arm. More than half of his career wins came after the surgery.

The surgery performed on Tommy John in 1974 was considered revolutionary---mostly because of his remarkable recovery. Today, it’s well known but there’s also a misconception that it makes for better athletes.

“Tommy John doesn’t make you bionic, it’s really a misconception i say in the office, it doesn’t make you throw faster or farther, said Dr. William Charlton, an orthopedic surgeon with Commonwealth Health.

Dr. William Charlton trained under the doctor who pioneered the Tommy John surgery and he says arm injuries in baseball are common.

“People start earlier with more year-round activities in young people despite better techniques and training we do see an increased number of injuries in the elbow and the shoulder.”

There are options including rest, rehab and physical therapy before a doctor would recommend Tommy John or any other surgery.

“The importance of stress prevention—pitch count, technique and to prevent failure overload of the collateral ligament, ” says Dr. Charlton

At the time of Tommy John’s surgery, doctors put the chance for success at 1 in 100; in 2009, the prospect for complete recovery had risen to 85 to 90 percent.

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