When an elbow injury forced Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka to the disabled list, thoughts raced to Tommy John surgery. But the Japanese phenom opted for rehabilitation. That’s becoming increasingly unusual.
Jose Fernandez, Bronson Arroyo, Patrick Corbin, and 21 other major leaguers have undergone Tommy John surgery this season. The number matches the totals for last season and pushes closer to the record of 46 ulnar collateral ligament operations in 2012.
“I think what you’re seeing now is guys that have pitched too much as youngsters,” Tommy John told Breitbart Sports in May. One other factor contributing to the spike in the surgeries may be the success of the surgery. A study published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine in March reported, “In comparison with controls, pitchers who underwent UCL reconstruction had a lower ERA and WHIP, had a lower losing percentage, and gave up fewer hits per inning.” More than four in five cases returned to play in Major League Baseball and 97 percent returned to play in professional baseball.
If your team guarantees your contract, and the surgery all-but guarantees not only a return but an improvement, why not get the operation?
For the 25-year-old Tanaka, suffering just a slight tear and the prospect of losing a season-and-a-half of his career appear to tug him toward rehab and away from Tommy John surgery–for now. The righty rookie enjoys a 12-4 record with a 2.51 ERA. He doesn’t seem like the type of competitor who enjoys the couch more than the mound.