By Ken Reed
The number of pitchers getting Tommy John surgery continues to increase, from youth leagues to the Major Leagues.
According to USA Today research, of the top 64 hardest throwers this year in Major League Baseball (MLB), 30 have undergone reconstructive Tommy John surgery on their pitching elbows, or are expected to undergo the surgery soon. That includes Los Angeles Angels two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani. Tampa Bay Rays ace Shane McClanahan is also out with Tommy John surgery. He’s the eighth Rays pitcher to get the surgery since 2020.
“It’s very frustrating to me and my colleagues,” says Dr. Glenn Fleisig, biomechanics research director at the American Sports Medicine Institute in Birmingham.
“Frankly, the number of Tommy John injuries in minor league and major league baseball continues to rise. If you chart the rates of Tommy John injuries compared to the average fastball velocity, it’s scary how the graphs look the same.”
The radar gun is the root of the never-ending quest to throw harder.
“Nobody is really teaching good mechanics,” says Stan Conte, a senior medical director for the Miami Marlins and consultant to MLB. “What they’re saying in college is, you want to get to the next level, you gotta throw 97-99. It doesn’t matter if you hit the bull or can’t throw a strike.”
The American Sports Medicine Institute (ASMI) has called the rise in the number of professional pitchers requiring ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction (“Tommy John surgery”) an epidemic.
Sadly, the issue starts at the youngest levels of baseball.
ASMI biomechanist Tony Laughlin believes you can’t examine the rise in UCL injuries requiring Tommy John surgery at the MLB level without also examining what’s taking place in youth baseball.
“There’s a lot going on in youth baseball, where they’re pitching a lot and pitching year-round, where they’re just riding these ligaments into the ground,” says Laughlin. “We want the focus to be for parents and younger kids to give their arms a rest.”
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
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Episode #31 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Foul Ball Safety Is Still an Important Issue at Ballparks – Our guests are Jordan Skopp, founder of FoulBallSafety.com and Greg Wilkowski, a Chicago based attorney. We discuss the historical problem of foul balls injuring fans and why some teams are still hesitant to put up protective netting in some minor league and college baseball parks.
Episode #30 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The State of College Athletics with Dr. David Ridpath: Problems and Potential Solutions – Ridpath is a sports administration professor at Ohio University and a member of The Drake Group, a college sports reform think tank.
Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman. We discuss the state of college athletics today.
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. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
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.
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.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
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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