Dodgers Team News

Dodgers’ Team Physician Speaks Out About Tommy John Epidemic

There’s a thick scar that runs along the elbow of so many pitchers’ arms, like the marking of an invite-only club. The cost of admission: you have to blow out your elbow and have reconstructive surgery.

Tommy John surgery, the groundbreaking procedure first pioneered by Frank Jobe 50 years ago, reconstructs the UCL by grafting on a replacement tendon, usually from the forearm or hamstring. It has also become all too common. Dr. Neal El Attrache, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ head team physician, has had to perform too many in his career.

According to ElAttrache, “the numbers are pretty staggering.”

More than 30 percent of pitchers in Major League Baseball have had Tommy John surgery already, and 38 have had the surgery in the last 13 months alone. According to ESPN’s MLB Injury Status, around 75 pitchers are currently nursing elbow problems, including Cleveland’s Shane Bieber and Atlanta’s Spencer Strider.

Shohei Ohtani, Walker Buehler, Dustin May, and Tyler Glasnow are a few Dodgers pitchers who have had Tommy John surgery at least once (some twice) in their careers.

For ElAttrache, there isn’t a simple solution. However, he does issue a warning.

“There’s no question that we’re exceeding the maximum capacity of this ligament – at a higher and higher rate,” ElAttrache said in an interview with the Daily Mail.

The surgeon’s biggest fear is that existing medical procedures simply won’t be able to keep up with the demands of today’s pitcher.

“I never underestimate the demands of the human body. And I try not to overestimate what I, as a human being, can do to fix it,” ElAttrache said. “What may end up happening unfortunately is that this will continue… until enough of them are tearing that we just can’t do an operation that is good enough to get them back.”

Photo Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

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Maren Angus

Maren Angus-Coombs was born in Los Angeles and raised in Nashville, Tenn. She is a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University and has been a sports writer since 2008. Despite being raised in the South, her sports obsession has always been in Los Angeles. She is currently a staff writer for Dodgers Nation and the LA Sports Report Network.

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