Keri: Q&A with Dr. Glenn Fleisig on the Tommy John surgery epidemic

From Jonah Keri at Grantland on March 10, 2015:

Tommy John surgeries are ripping through baseball at a faster pace than ever before. Twenty-five percent of active MLB pitchers have had the procedure, which reconstructs a pitcher’s torn ulnar collateral ligament, as have 15 percent of current minor league pitchers. Last season was particularly distressing: More pitchers had the surgery in 2014 than in the entirety of the 1990s.

The trend shows no signs of slowing down. The latest pitcher to suffer major UCL damage is Yu Darvish. The Texas Rangers ace meets today with Dr. David Altchek, the Mets’ team physician and an expert in TJ surgery. Although no decision had been made at the time this post was published, the chatter leading up to today suggests that Darvish might soon become the next ace to go under the knife.

Now here’s the scariest part: While Tommy John surgery has a high success rate, 20 percent of pitchers never make it back to their previous level of performance.

Dr. Glenn Fleisig has made a career out of examining arm injuries and looking for ways to curb them. The research director at the American Sports Medicine Institute and adviser to Little League, USA Baseball, and Major League Baseball has studied everything from pitch counts to injury rates from youth to pro levels. He and Stan Conte of the Los Angeles Dodgers conducted the study that found how many major and minor leaguers have undergone the procedure. So, after his presentation at the recent MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, I sat down with Fleisig to discuss the Tommy John epidemic, why it’s happening, and what (if anything) can be done about it.

Read the full article here:

Originally published: March 10, 2015. Last Updated: March 10, 2015.