Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The price of year around baseball

It's spring time in America and acrooss our nation many families are spending evenings at the baseball fields. For many kids in the greater Houston area baseball is a 12 month sport involving spring, fall, summer and select teams. Houston is a mecca for baseball talent due primarily to a temperate climate and the abundance of talent that develops with good coaching. Yet this comes at a cost.
The Houston Comical has reported one of the consequences of year around baseball has been a seven fold increase in Tommy John surgery since 1996. Kudos to Sam Khan on a well written piece that needs more scrutiny as kids are pressured to play ball year around.
While rates on UCL surgery are not tracked nationally, some of the area's and country's top surgeons said they've seen a significant increase in the number of high-school-aged players having the procedure.
"I would say over the last five to seven years, (the rate) has doubled," said David Lintner, an orthopedic sports medicine specialist who is Eovaldi's doctor and also serves as the Astros' team medical director. "And it goes up steadily every year."
Dr. James Andrews, one of the nation's most respected orthopedic surgeons, has also seen a spike in the number ofhigh school pitchers he has performed the procedure on.
In a three-year span from 1996-99, Andrews performed Tommy John surgery on 164 pitchers, 19 of whom were high school aged or younger. From 2004-07, that number had jumped to 588 pitchers, 146 of whom were high school or youth league players — a seven-fold increase.
"Without a doubt, it's an issue," said Glenn Fleisig, the Smith and Nephew Chair of Research at the American Sports Medicine Institute, which was founded by Andrews. "The numbers are staggering in adolescents. More and more high-school-aged kids are having the surgery."
The big question: Why is a procedure once used mostly on college and professional players becoming more prevalent in kids who can't legally vote?
There are many factors, including how much a pitcher throws, what type of pitches he throws and whether he has good mechanics. But one factor stands out as the main culprit.
"Without a doubt, the No. 1 statistical cause (of UCL injuries) is overuse," Fleisig said. "In our studies, when a pitcher regularly threw with arm fatigue, he was 36 times more likely to be in the surgery group as opposed to the non-surgery group. That's the strongest statistical correlation in any study we've ever done."

Let's keep in mind Tommy John was 39 years old and had been pitching in the major leagues for 19 years when he had his UCL surgery.

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