By Ken Reed
Tommy John was a great Major League Baseball (MLB) pitcher, primarily for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He won 288 major league games and was an All-Star multiple times.
However, he is famous today not primarily for his pitching career but because of a unique surgical procedure he had done on his elbow. He was the first person to have a new ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) reconstruction procedure done by Dr. Frank Jobe. Jobe and others started calling the new procedure “Tommy John surgery” and it has stuck.
“It doesn’t bother me to watch my legacy being upstaged by an operation that saved plenty of ballplayers’ careers. What does bother me is that my name is now attached to something that affects more children than pro athletes.”
Here are some scary facts: More than 57 percent of all Tommy John surgeries today are performed on teenagers between 15 and 19 years old. One in seven of those will never fully recover. Moreover, the rate of ACL tears in kids has been increasing 2.3 percent per year for a couple decades.
John, and his son, also named Tommy John (Tommy John III), have dedicated themselves to reversing this sad trend in young baseball players, particularly pitchers. Moreover, Tommy John, the younger, has taken it a step further and is working hard to bring sanity to our youth sports culture that results in numerous overuse injuries like torn ulnar collateral ligaments.
“My calling was to get to the source of these problems,” says John. “That’s how I’ve come to where I’m at right now.”
John quit his career as a baseball and personal trainer, thinking he was part of the problem. He went back to school and became a chiropractor to not only help athletes heal, but also to teach parents how to protect their children from what he calls a youth sports injury epidemic.
“It’s hard seeing so many kids being pushed the way they are today, and getting hurt as a result,” says John the elder, the former MLB star.
John hopes his work, and that of his son, will result in fewer youth sports injuries in general, and fewer UCL reconstruction surgeries in particular.
As John says, that would be a legacy far greater than that of being a former baseball star.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world, with over 150 camps in 30+ U.S. states and Canada. We discuss problems in youth sports today, including single sport specialization, the growing gap between the “haves” and “have-nots,” the high drop-out rate in competitive sports, and the growing mental health challenges young athletes are dealing with today.
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Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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