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Performance gains from Tommy John surgery still up for debate

Stephen Strasburg

FOR THE BETTER?  Many baseball pitchers, including Stephen Strasburg of the Washington Nationals, have undergone Tommy John surgery in their arms. While the operation can extend careers, researchers differ on whether the players pitch as well as they once did.

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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.

Science & Society,, Microbes,, Health

White House unveils strategy against antibiotic resistance

By Nathan Seppa 5:09pm, March 27, 2015
The Obama Administration has launched a long-term plan to curb antibiotic resistance, unveiling incentives and requirements designed to boost surveillance and diagnosis of resistant microbes.
Animals,, Conservation

Panda stalking reveals panda hangouts

By Helen Thompson 2:00pm, March 27, 2015
Scientists used GPS trackers to learn about the giant panda lifestyle.
Evolution,, Animals

Bright bird plumage resulted from natural, sexual selection

By Bethany Brookshire 2:00pm, March 27, 2015
Darwin hypothesized that bird color differences resulted from sexual selection. Wallace disagreed. A study shows that both were right after all.

For bats, simple traffic patterns limit collisions

By Kate Baggaley 6:34pm, March 26, 2015

Humans aren’t the only ones who follow traffic rules. Bats do it too, researchers report March 26 in PLOS Computational Biology.

Scientists eavesdropped on echolocating Daubenton’s bats (Myotis daubentonii) as the animals cruised for dinner. Once a bat locks on to a peer’s  sonar calls, the bat copies its movements to within a few wingbeats, the researchers found.

Planetary Science,, Astronomy

NASA has a plan for putting rock from asteroid in moon’s orbit

By Christopher Crockett 5:46pm, March 25, 2015
NASA selects concept for its Asteroid Redirect Mission, which will let astronauts train for future missions to Mars.
Science & Society,, Numbers

John Nash, Louis Nirenberg share math’s Abel Prize

By Lila Guterman 4:53pm, March 25, 2015
John Nash and Louis Nirenberg will receive the 2015 ‘Nobel of mathematics’ for their work on partial differential equations.
Quantum Physics

One photon wrangles 3,000 atoms into quantum entanglement

By Andrew Grant 2:00pm, March 25, 2015
A single photon can trigger the creation of quantum entanglement between thousands of atoms.
Microbiology,, Agriculture

A vineyard's soil influences the microbiome of a grapevine

By Helen Thompson 7:00am, March 25, 2015
Vineyard soil microbes end up on grapes, leaves and flowers, study finds.

The brain sees words, even nonsense ones, as pictures

By Ashley Yeager 5:28pm, March 24, 2015
Once we learn a word, our brain sees the string of letters as a picture, even if the word isn't a real one.
Chemistry,, Neuroscience,, Health

Today’s pot is more potent, less therapeutic

By Beth Mole 12:32pm, March 24, 2015
The medicinal qualities of marijuana may be up in smoke thanks to years of cross-breeding plants for a better buzz.
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