60-Second Health

Dodgers Doc: No Noninjury Tommy John Surgery to Improve Performance

Stan Conte, vice president of medical services for the L.A. Dodgers, advised parents and coaches of young athletes to not consider Tommy John surgery on healthy arms for the sake of improving performance. He spoke at the SABR conference in Phoenix on March 13. Steve Mirsky reports


“There was a recent study that did a survey of parents and coaches asking them what they thought about Tommy John surgery.”

Dr. Stan Conte, vice president of medical services for the LA Dodgers, at the Society for American Baseball Research conference in Phoenix on March 13.

“And about 38 percent to 42 percent of the coaches and the parents thought it was okay to do a Tommy John surgery on their son that did not have an elbow problem in order to improve performance. This is dangerous stuff.”

Dangerous because that velocity does not increase on average after the surgery. The vast majority of pitchers do return to previous performance levels after a long rehab. But about 15 to 25 percent, depending on level of play, do not come back. And the shelf life of the surgery is limited. More major league pitchers are undergoing repeat Tommy John surgeries, with two being announced just this week.

“The parents come in and say, ‘Listen he’s throwing 78, he’s not going to get a scholarship until he’s throws 83, let’s do the surgery so he can throw 83.’ This sounds ridiculous, but it’s happening on a global scale. It's ridiculous.”

—Steve Mirsky

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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