In the recent past I had a parent of a talented youth baseball player I know state, “These guys end up having Tommy John and come back throwing harder.” That sounded like nails on a chalkboard to me.
If anyone ever tells you Tommy John will make you throw harder, turn the other way and run. No, the surgery will not make your kid throw harder.
UCL reconstruction is an orthopedic operation of the elbow joint where a doctor harvests a tendon from the patients own body (autograft) or from a donor (allograft) and reconstructs the ligament (UCL) that gives the inner (medial) side of the elbow it’s stability. Note that doctors use a tendon to replace a ligament.
A 4”-5” incision is made on the inside of the elbow to expose the ligament and the bones it attaches to. The UCL is attached to the ulna bone and the humerus bone of the elbow. Small holes are drilled through each bone. Then the doctor will take the grafted tendon and weave it through the drilled holes, replacing the ligament that was torn or stretched. Anchors are used to hold the new graft in place. The bone then grows back, closing the two drilled holes, and now the throwing athlete has a “new ligament” in place.
An autograft (tendon harvested from the patient’s own body) is typically taken from one of the patient’s forearms (palmaris longus tendon) or the patient’s hamstring (gracilis tendon).
Different doctors use different techniques when putting the grafted tendon in place and anchoring it to the bones. Some doctors remove the old ligament from the patient’s elbow and some doctors leave the remains of the natural ligament in place. Another part of the surgery is whether to transpose (reposition) the ulnar nerve aka “the funny bone”. If you have ever hit the inside of your elbow against something hard and felt shock and tingle run down your forearm into your fingers, that’s the ulnar nerve! Some doctors reposition the nerve during the surgery and some leave it in it’s place. The technique behind repositioning the nerve exists because there’s not a lot of room in the joint space—there have been many post-operation patients that feel tingling in their forearm, pinky and ring fingers due to the swelling caused from the surgery. Moving the nerve is a way to mitigate this nerve compression from happening.
Notice that some doctors are doing certain things while other are not. There has been a plethora of research done on these techniques to see which way is best but research hasn’t been conclusive in showing one way being better than the other.
The typical pitcher is not game ready until 11-13 months post-op, and it typically takes up to 18 months to feel completely normal.
This is a myth. No. The surgery will not make a player throw harder. A quick read of one of the many articles with input from world renowned orthopedic Dr. James Andrews will tell you just how disturbed he is by the amount of youth patients he’s operating on. Here is an excellent read from the best in the business, Dr. Andrews.
The reason this myth started is there have been players that come back throwing harder after having the surgery. This is due to two reasons:
Surgery should be a last resort. There are never any guarantees when going under the knife. Several credible medical studies of pro baseball players have put the success rate at around 80%. Success in this instance is defined as the pitchers making it back to the level they were at before surgery, and making significant contributions upon returning. A quick look at this March 2015 article in Baseball America shows all major league pitchers that had TJ surgery in 2012 (27 pitchers). When this article was written in March of 2015, only five of the 27 major league pitchers that had TJ in 2012 returned to throw more than 100 innings. 11 of the 27 big leaguers had thrown zero innings at the major league level when this article was written in 2015.
Big leaguers like Jonny Venters, Joel Hanrahan, Kris Medlen, Brandon Beachy, Peter Moylan, and Joey Devine have all needed additional TJ surgeries, with Venters, Hanrahan, and Devine unable to return to a big league mound at all.
As a former major league pitcher that has had three elbow surgeries, including Tommy John, I wouldn’t wish the surgery upon anyone. The comeback is a battle, both mentally and physically. You can lessen your kid’s chances of ever having to go under the knife by getting him on a structured and proper throwing program, and by monitoring the amount of throws he makes. Baseball pitchers —especially youth baseball players— need three to four months without any throwing, every year. Play another sport. However, during the season it can be highly beneficial to throw every day (with a correctly structured program and proper mechanics). After the age of eight, it’s smart to explore and start scapula and rotator cuff exercises for your youngster—nothing too intense. Be smart now and set your kid up for healthy success in the future.
The best thing you can do is find a mentor that can provide insight and guidance on a proper throwing program. Make sure your kid has structure, a plan and someone with credible experience monitoring his throwing program.
If your kid is throwing only twice per week with no structure in place, he will struggle to develop arm strength and stability.
Does your kid play baseball in Orlando, Tampa, Miami, West Palm or Fort Myers? We have an excellent network of pro baseball players, from first round draft picks to big leaguers, that will help your kid excel on the baseball field by implementing a throwing program that will set your kid up for success.
Pro4mer makes it easy to find, book and train with pro baseball players in your community—book online, and train in-person with a local pro athlete.
To smart, healthy baseball,
Founder of Pro4mer, former MLB pitcher
Pro4mer now connects you with pro baseball players dedicated to your kid’s success for in-person, 1-on-1 training in the greater Tampa area. From first round MLB Draft picks to major leaguers, we have the perfect baseball mentor to help your kid excel on and off the field.
Find local Pro Baseball Players
Pro4mer pros have helped hundreds of kids across Florida become better baseball players. The odds of your kid playing at the next level continue to diminish as he ages. Our pros can help the odds be in your favor! So many kids have the ability inside of them, but just haven’t been given the proper set of skills to unlock the greatness within them.
We’ll connect you with a proven performer. A dedicated pro that has earned his way to the top of his sport, and has been coached by the best in the game. There’s no one better prepared to teach the fundamentals and intricacies of sports than those that have played at the highest level.
Scapula and rotator cuff exercises to strengthen and stabilize the shoulder that will result in increased velocity, more command, better stamina, and lessen your chances of injury.
Doesn’t every kid want to throw harder? Don’t you, as a parent, want to see your kid throw more strikes and be more accurate throwing across the diamond? It’s more than possible to see velocity and command/control increase but proper preparation and work is critical. Implement these 5 different exercise into your/your kid’s weekly training sessions and you’ll see some great results if done correctly and consistently.
If you’ve been to a minor league or major league game you’ve probably asked yourself how the pros on the field throw so hard on the mound, or how the infielders are so accurate throwing across the diamond with very little effort. Yes, they have plenty of God-given talent, however, they’re able to do this because of their dedication in doing the little things to prepare. Walk in to any minor or major league clubhouse and you’ll see similar exercises being done by most all players on a daily basis. A stable and strong scapula is a baseball player’s best friend.
Be slow and be controlled on both the up and down phase of these movements. Notice on the first exercise in the video, our friend Michael moves his arm at much too quick of a pace.
How many reps should you do? Until the last three start to burn, somewhere around 10-15 depending on the age of the person and the weight being used.
An unopened can of soup at the house makes a perfect 1-2 pound weight, or you can use a small traditional weight between 1-5 pounds.
You should not burn yourself out while doing these exercises. You want to be able to move this weight freely with light resistance; these exercises aren’t meant to be heavy weight that you struggle through.
Do these 3 to 5 times per week.
How many sets should you do? Mix it up each day! One day do one set of 15 reps with each exercise, and the next time do two sets of 10 reps with each exercise. Variety is good here.
Find a local current or former pro baseball player to introduce and monitor this type of program for you or your kid. Find a local pro at our website here.
Note: the exercise with the thumb down at 45 degrees – some physical therapists will say this is an “impingement” position for the shoulder, however, throwing athletes typically have more internal and external range of motion than the average person so if there is no discomfort with the movement then there’s no reason to worry. This exercise is performed by nearly all pro baseball players.
Train with a proven performer.
Search our database! Pro4mer now connects you with pro baseball players dedicated to your kid’s success for in-person, 1-on-1 training in Orlando. From first round MLB Draft picks to major leaguers, we have the perfect baseball mentor to help your kid excel on and off the field.
95% of parents book more sessions after their first.
Search our database of pros
Pro4mer has helped hundreds of kids across Florida become better baseball players. The odds of your kid playing at the next level continue to diminish as he ages. Our pros can help the odds be in your favor! So many kids have the ability inside of them, but just haven’t been given the proper set of skills to unlock their greatness within.
Pro4mer connects you with a proven performer. A dedicated playing professional (current and former players) that has earned his way to the top of his sport, and has been coached by the best in the game. There’s no one better prepared to teach the fundamentals and intricacies of baseball than those that have played at the highest level.