Saturday April 14, 2012
MLB reports – Johnny Anderson (Guest MLB Blogger): “Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capacity to build the world’s first bionic man.”
The doctors call it “UCLR” – ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction. The Baseball community call it Tommy John Surgery. I call it the resurrection of my career. Dr. Frank Jobe introduced the world to his experimental procedure in 1974 on the one and only Tommy John. The UCL is the ligament that creates the stability which allows the high-stress action of throwing a baseball. Through repetitive use and a heavy workload, the UCL will indefinitely succumb to failure. The ligament will begin to fray and eventually tear, leaving pitchers in agony on the mound (see Joel Zumaya, Chris Carpenter, etc.) During the surgery, a new tendon, coming either from the wrist or hamstring is implanted and woven in a figure-eight pattern through holes drilled in the humerus and ulna bones. Sounds gnarly, I know first hand. After surgery, the player will be in a brace with limited mobility. Over time, the brace can be adjusted to certain degrees to promote extension with the elbow until the player has full flexion. Through rigorous rehabilitation and a 6-month throwing program, it’s not uncommon for pitchers to throw harder than they did before the injury. The chances of a complete recovery after the surgery are estimated at 85 to 90 percent. Rehabilitation takes around 12 to 15 months for pitchers and about 6 months for position players.
The experience I’ve had with my pal TJ has been quite the travel. I suffered a blow-out of my UCL in the first game of Spring Training in 2010 with the Blue Jays. Two pitches into the first inning I felt and heard a loud pop. I felt a burning sensation throughout my forearm and tricep. I saw my career flash before my eyes. I trotted over to the dugout and held my head in my hands. A week later I awoke to being drugged up on painkillers and a brace on my arm. Months had passed and I was advancing into my throwing program and eventually started to throw to hitters. I went from a soft-tossing lefty, to a power pitcher. My velocity had peaked at 96 mph, and I was overpowering hitters with ease.
Fifteen months after the first surgery, I felt that same pop. No rhyme or reason. Heeeere we go again. I saw renowned Tommy John specialist Dr. James Andrews the next day. In his own words, Dr. Andrews said, “I haven’t seen anything like this in 20 years.” Well that was refreshing. July 12th 2011. I found myself sitting in a hospital bed next to Terrell Owens, Matt Stafford and Joba Chamberlain. Nine months later, and here I am. Feeling as strong as ever, and close to facing hitters for the first time since July.
While the Tommy John procedure hasn’t created teams of Frankenstein-like monster men, it’s the saving grace of many pitchers across the game. Close to 100 of the 800 or so pitchers in the league have undergone the procedure and have seen miraculous comebacks. But to all the pitchers out there, note that there are always ways to help prevent the UCL from “blowing up.” Through strengthening the Rotator Cuff and shoulder, pressure will be relieved from the elbow. Consistent long toss and post-throw therapy seem to do the trick.
I would like to thank mlbreports.com giving me the opportunity to share my story and the Blue Jays for sticking with me, even after everything I’ve gone through. I love all of my fans (the few I have) and interacting with them. I’ve become quite the Twitteraholic as of late and I can be followed at @j0hnny_A. I enjoy interacting with everyone, so give me a follow! Until next time…. Johnny
***Thank you to Johnny Anderson for preparing this great feature on Tommy John Surgery for MLB reports (and the pictures/video used in todays’ feature)! Johnny LOVES Twitter- so follow him ASAP!!! 2012 is a big year for Johnny as he continues on his road to recovery. Best of luck Johnny: we’re proud of ya!***
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