Apr 5, 2009
Baseball, returning to big-league action tonight, is a sport awash in superstition and lore—consider the long-standing Curse of the Bambino, said to have haunted the Boston Red Sox from the time the team sold Babe Ruth to the rival New York Yankees in 1919 until the Sox won a World Series in 2004. (The Chicago Cubs, another long-suffering franchise, are still struggling under their own Curse of the Billy Goat.)
So it's no surprise that a surgical operation resurrecting damaged elbows has taken on a legendary life of its own as a career-maker, rumored to tack a few extra miles onto a fastball and make a good pitcher great. Ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction, better known in the baseball world as Tommy John surgery after the left-handed Dodgers pitcher who first underwent the procedure in 1974, has often been rumored to leave pitchers better-equipped than ever to compete in the big leagues. After all, John himself went on to win 164 games post-op while making three All-Star teams. But the science on the surgery seems to indicate that the procedure provides little if any boost over pre-injury performance levels—in other words, its benefits may be just as real as the Bambino's curse.
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