Major League baseball pitchers who undergo two Tommy John surgeries have shorter careers — by nearly a year on average — than similar-age pitchers who haven’t had the operation, researchers find. For the surgery, surgeons replace the damaged ulnar collateral ligament in the arm with a tendon taken from elsewhere in the body to reverse a career-ending injury.
After two surgeries, pitchers walked more batters and recorded fewer wins than same-age pitchers who didn’t have surgery, researchers from the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit reported March 24 in Las Vegas at a meeting of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. The same researchers reported in 2014 that 87 percent of major league pitchers who underwent a first-time Tommy John operation returned to the big leagues. That fell to 66 percent after a second surgery, and performance declined after both surgeries.
But the matter isn’t settled. Researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago found in 2014 that pitching improved after a first surgery. Both research groups reported that pitching declined during the year before surgery.