The Ole Ball Game

Tommy John and Its Impact on the Younger Generation

by Brennen S.
(New York)

Pedro Martinez

Pedro Martinez

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Brennen's Personal Baseball Story: To start off, I do not coach a team myself but I am a pitching instructor. I am also in college and play competitively for my respective school.


Recently, I have undergone Tommy John Surgery and I would just like to take this opportunity to tell the player and coaches side of Tommy John Surgery.

As a player, before tearing my Ulnar Collateral Ligament in my left elbow, I always felt bad for guys who have had the surgery, but never thought it would happen to me. I would warm up thoroughly and make sure I was lose before even warming up in the bullpen or prior to pitching in a game.

However, my coach made some changes in my mechanics to try to increase my velocity. This change made my arm action turn to the dreaded "Inverted W".

Our first home game of the season, April 1st I came into the game in the 4th inning, we were down by 9. No real pressure in this situation.

However, as a competitor you want to go out there and pitch as if it was a 0-0 ball game no matter what.

My first inning of work was rather clean only giving up two hits but getting out of the jam. I felt tightness in my elbow and thought it was just the cold, April weather in Buffalo. I could not have been anymore wrong.

I went out the next inning, walked the first two guys and didn't know what my issue was. At this point my coach was frustrated with how I started the inning.

The third batter, I started with a slider. After that pitch I felt a tighter pull on my forearm. I told myself I would finish the inning and talk to our trainer about it. Next pitch was a 2 seam that ran more than anything I have thrown in my life. I heard and felt a pop in my elbow, followed by the sharpest and most painful thing I had felt in my life.

I had completely torn my UCL. I spent the next month at school just going to class, not able to play and just frustrated with my situation. This was until I looked at the positive outlook on what had happened.

I could be the example for younger players who are aspiring pitchers or position players.

When I came home for the summer I gave a few lessons to some guys I worked with in the past. They are little league aged but I told them all the same thing. "Be Smart, your arm is the most important thing to having a future in baseball. If something doesn't feel right, speak up." For me in a coaching point of view I would never want anyone to go through this procedure. It is preventable.

At all my lessons I ask how they feel before they start to throw, how they feel during their bullpen and how they feel after. They do not throw more than 40 pitches per bullpen.

Kids need to know that arm pain is no joke.

Baseball is a game. Games are fun. Baseball is not fun when you are playing in pain or not at all because of your arm.

In my opinion the regiment of warming up and being smart about pitching starts when they are young. It should become a permanent part of their life before a game or practice. This is also the responsibility of the coach to make sure his players are warmed up properly and that if they do have players with arm pain that they speak up.

Set strict pitch counts for guys and stick to it.

I love the game. It is hard to wake up unable to go play everyday and just think about throwing. I learned from my experience that the game can give you the world. I may not be able to play but I can give to the up and coming generation of baseball players so they learn from my mistake, and hopefully pass their knowledge and experiences down to the following generation.


Rick commented: Brennen, sorry to hear about your situation.

I appreciate you sharing your story, and sharing what you have learned.

It is sometimes hard to get young players to follow a disciplined regimen for throwing. Warmup time quite often becomes socialization time, which can surely lead to arm problems at almost any point.

Warming up properly and paying attention to how your arm feels at any given time can certainly help avoid arm issues.

Pitch counts are also a help. Proper mechanics as well.

Yours in baseball,

Rick

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Jul 05, 2017
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Thank you for the feedback! NEW
by: Brennen S.

Jim, I appreciate your feedback. I can certainly do a piece on the recovery and surgery aspect. If you have anymore pointers I would love to hear them. Thanks for taking the time to read!

Jul 05, 2017
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What about the surgery and recovery? NEW
by: Jim (Phoenix, AZ)

Brennen, I, too, am sorry to hear about your pitching misadventure.

But I'm very surprised that you said NOTHING about surgery nor recovery.

To me -- one whose father pitched for championship high school and community teams here in Phoenix, AZ, during the late 1940s and early 1950s but I was never an athlete -- the surgery & recovery part is as an important part of your story as is the injury part of your story.
It adds more emphasis to the whole warm-up and say-something-if-it-doesn't-feel-right consequences if they're not done right or followed through with.

For example:
I tore the cartilage in both my knees during a rain-day in my high school P.E. class (March 1972) doing some gymnastics indoors. At the time, I did not know the gymnastics 'standard' that anyone over 6ft. tall should NOT do gymnastics (I was 6'4"). Also, we did NO warm-ups nor stretching exercises beforehand.
One of the "exercises" was a head-handstand off a vaulting horse. I landed wrong and immediately had pain in both knees. The pain subsided enough while doing other gymnastic exercises so that by the time of the second go-around, I thought nothing of doing the horse again. Though I did a better job on the landing, I still got pain in both knees. I only mentioned this to a couple of my classmates, but said nothing to the P.E. teachers.
A couple of weeks later, we were hitting golf balls on the practice football field. Once everyone had hit their allotment, you then ran down field to collect your quantity of balls. Well, during the second round while I was running down the field, my left knee locked in the bent position and I nearly did a face-plant in the grass.
The inner cartilage (medial meniscus) had torn right in half and I had to have surgery to remove to remove it.
At the time, orthoscopic surgery was not wide-spread (it appeared here about two years later); as a result, I have two surgery scars about 4" long each. Due to a 'minor' complication, the typical surgery time of 45 minutes to 1 hour ended up being 4-1/2 HOURS.
I was out of school for nearly a month!
And when I got back, half of my schedule had to be changed because I could no longer participate in a "regular" P.E. class. I had to switch to "adaptive P.E.;" and since it was held only once a day, my schedule had to be re-arranged to accommodate that.
And even with my patents bringing home what school assignments they could while I was homebound, it still took me just over 1 month to catch-up!
And my physical therapy lasted SIX MONTHS.

And another thing that was not mentioned at the time which I found out YEARS later was that if a joint has ANY KIND OF INJURY, you WILL GET arthritis. It's not a matter of "if" -- it's a matter of "when."
For me, it was about 28 years later.

So, it's not JUST the injury; there's the "cure" and the rehab/recovery.

But, YES, 'things' must be done properly and one must speak up if whatever they're doing does not feel right!
Though the consequences may not be immediate, if 'things' are not properly taken care of, the consequences can be long-lasting, potentially debilitating, far reaching, and possibly life-changing.

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