ROANOKE – More teens are getting Tommy John surgery, a procedure designed to re-construct a torn elbow ligament. Many major league baseball pitchers go through this surgery but the number of high-school athletes has risen in the past decade.
Carilion Clinic reports seeing more patients but says it maybe because more people recognize the injury.
Dr. TK Miller, Vice Chairman of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Chief, Section of Sports Medicine also says Carilion is seeing more issues for teens playing on multiple teams, especially if they pitch and also play another high throwing position like catcher.
"Specializing earlier in a single sport/position and increased training volume are the most likely contributing factors to UCL injuries," said Dr. Miller.
Dr. Paul Saluan, a sports medicine expert at Cleveland Clinic agrees, saying the uptick is often the result of too much, too soon.
He says the increase is concerning.
"Overuse is responsible for the vast majority of these injuries. the best way to take care of these injuries is not let them happen in the first place. so, pay attention to pitch-counts; and pay attention to throwing in any and all leagues," said Dr. Saluan.
He says we tend to underestimate the amount of throwing our children are doing, so keep pitches to a minimum and allow for proper rest. Make sure athletes have strong core muscles, so they're not placing too much stress on their arms. Poor throwing mechanics can lead to injury.
There are other procedures like repairs, so discuss all options for young players before a complete reconstruction.