Elbow ligament reconstruction, or Tommy John surgery, is a common procedure for pitchers in the era of the restraint revolution. According to USA Today Sports, the prevalence of Tommy John surgery continues to rise, with a 2018 survey showing that 26 percent of major league pitchers and 19 percent of minor league pitchers had Tommy John surgery.
Dr. Stan Conti, the Miami Marlins’ senior director of medical affairs who conducted the study, said, “The reason why Tommy John surgery has increased so dramatically is because it works. In the major leagues, 84% of players return to their pre-surgery performance, and 90% pitch competitively again,” said Dr. Conti. “It’s interesting that players aren’t afraid to have Tommy John surgery.”
Ryu Hyun-jin (36, Toronto Blue Jays) has had the surgery twice. The first time was in 2004, when he was a sophomore at Dongsan High School in Incheon, and the second time was last June. There were many concerns about his comeback due to his age in his mid-30s, but he was back on the field 13 months after the surgery and back on the big league mound 14 months later. Since his return, he has gone 3-3 with a 2.93 ERA, 33 strikeouts, and a 1.05 WHIP in eight games (40 innings).
It’s become so common that even amateur players don’t mind having Tommy John surgery before turning pro. Shane McClanahan (Tampa Bay Rays) and Spencer Strider (Atlanta Braves) had it done in the amateur ranks. Some players undergo surgery shortly after being drafted, such as Walker Buehler (29-LA Dodgers). After rehabbing and making his big league debut in 2017, Buehler became a mainstay starter in 2018.
In 2019, he was given ace treatment for his strong stuff, beating out Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-jin Ryu to be the Dodgers’ first postseason start. In six seasons with the Dodgers, he went 46-16 with a 3.02 ERA and 690 strikeouts in 115 games (106 starts, 638⅓ innings). However, he was lost for the season after undergoing a second Tommy John surgery last August, and after rehabbing this year and hoping to make a late-season comeback, he was put on hold for next year. He pitched two scoreless innings in a Triple-A rehab game on April 4, but his recovery has been slow.
Speaking to the Associated Press and other local media on Thursday, Buehler said, “I threw about 96 miles (154.5 kilometers) in a rehab game. I felt good physically, but the recovery process was tough. To come back from Tommy John surgery 13 months later and throw in a playoff game, you have to have a certain level of perfection, and that’s not easy because of the nature of the rehab. I didn’t want to be a distraction to the team.” 온라인바카라
In his first start in 13 months, Buehler’s velocity was good and his pitches looked good. But he didn’t like it, saying, “I felt like I came in second in a race.” He had the option of returning to the bullpen instead of starting, but decided against it, and will continue his rehab with the goal of being ready for spring training next February. “I think it’s the right decision for me and the organization,” he said.
No matter how common Tommy John has become, and how successful the surgery is, it’s not every day that a pitcher takes a knife to his elbow. It takes at least a year to rehabilitate, and even longer to fully return to pre-surgery form. That’s why Ryu’s performance this season should be recognized. Even Buehler, who is seven years younger than Ryu, has given up hope of returning this season, so Tommy John surgery doesn’t always guarantee a quick and successful return.