Thursday, February 24, 2011
This is why we don’t have nice elbowsPosted by Mat Kovach
Some things dumbfound me. Okay, many things do, but in particular this did when I read it:
“Despite the recognized risk of pitch type and amount of pitches, nearly a third of those we surveyed did not believe pitch counts were a risk factor for injury. Even more disturbing was that fact that a quarter of players and coaches thought that a pitcher’s performance could be enhanced by having a Tommy John surgery,” said lead author of the study, Christopher S. Ahmad, MD of Columbia University’s, Center for Shoulder, Elbow and Sports Medicine.
This must be the direct result of a decreased emphasis on health and science education. Has to be! How can anybody, seriously, think that Tommy John surgery would improve a pitcher’s performance, unless the pitcher is injured! Was a two-by-four used to in educating these people about the human body? I cannot see how they can think, “If you take a tendon from another part of a person's body, tie his elbow back together with it, and let the tendon start to work as the ligament it replaced during months of rehab, this will make you better!”
Football has a major problem with concussions, not just in the NFL but from the peewee leagues up. Baseball has a problem with pitching injuries, once again from the little leagues on up. Both sports need to step up their efforts to help, literally, the little people. MLB is not doing a good job, based on the above report.
First MLB needs to explain, very loudly:
“The reason a pitcher feels stronger after Tommy John surgery is because he was injured! The surgery gets him back close to normal, but does not get him all the way back!"
Second, MLB needs to explain that it very specifically limits innings and pitch counts for young pitchers. Young players shouldn't put up large pitch counts and innings in the minors or majors. (Carl Pavano is an example of what can happen. He was abused in the minors, which helped cause his injury times in the bigs).
Major league teams, to varying degrees, have learned that improperly throwing pitches can cause injuries. This is why they slowly introduce new pitches to younger arms. MLB needs to make sure that coaches of younger players understand this.
Major League Baseball needs to explain that pitch counts, even if you don’t like them, are implemented to manage the fatigue factor in pitchers. MLB needs to stand up and say, “Geesh, people, you are trying to hold your 12-year-old to the same pitching workload as CC Sabathia?!? Are you insane?! Do not do it! You need to listen to these young arms and encourage them to tell you when they're is tired.”
Cliff Lee, knowing how his body heals, didn’t feel comfortable working on short rest in the playoffs*. But the example is always the huge workloads. MLB needs to make sure that coaches don’t hold major league pitchers as examples. It is the minor league pitchers who should be examples to younger players. Minor league pitchers are not pitching the numbers established major league pitchers are.
* I assume this, but it holds true with many things I have heard about him.
As I write this, Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright appears to be heading to Tommy John surgery and a year away from the mound. Whenever I hear about something like this I wonder: Could biometric studies of his pitching motion have corrected the flaw that led to this? Did the Cardinals do biometric studies on their pitchers? Would the cost of doing a biometric study on Wainwright be more or less than the cost of paying him not to pitch? In fact, biometric studies on pitching motions would cost clubs less the cost of a single start of the pitcher. A. Single. Start.
Then I realize the problem: Major league teams do not seem to want to invest in keeping their pitchers healthy. This limits their credentials in spreading the word to younger generations, which in return gets them less than effective players. It is beneficial to make sure your draft picks are healthy. But major league teams choose not to do that.
This, sadly, is why people think surgery will improve a pitcher’s performance. Pitch ‘em till they break, then make them better.
Indians fan, member of the Duane Kuiper Fan Club, Spitball Researcher, Contact me on twitter, @siddfinch, via email or avian carrier