Stats show Tommy John surgery re­ally is a game changer

Modern Healthcare - - OUTLIERS -

It was an in­ter­est­ing epi­logue to a col­or­ful life and ca­reer. Just days af­ter Dr. Frank Jobe died March 6 at the age of 88, a paper was pre­sented at the Amer­i­can Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons an­nual meet­ing that showed the sur­gi­cal tech­nique he in­vented has had some no­tably im­pres­sive re­sults.

Re­searchers com­pared the records of 179 ma­jor-league base­ball pitch­ers who had un­der­gone Jobe’s ul­nar col­lat­eral lig­a­ment re­con­struc­tion tech­nique, bet­ter known as “Tommy John surgery,” against 179 pitch­ers who did not have the surgery. Both groups were matched for age, body mass in­dex, hand­ed­ness and ma­jor league ex­pe­ri­ence. Be­fore surgery, the pitch­ers who un­der­went the pro­ce­dure had been out­per­formed by the con­trol group. Post-surgery, the “pa­tients of Jobe” al­lowed fewer walks and hits per in­ning, won a higher per­cent­age of games and had a lower earned-run aver­age.

Re­searchers found the surgery ex­tended pitch­ing ca­reers by an aver­age of 3.9 years. But for the orig­i­nal sur­gi­cal sub­ject—Los Angeles Dodgers All-Star Tommy John—the sta­tis­tics were even more im­pres­sive. John, who told Mod­ern Health­care that he and Jobe were for­ever linked in his­tory like Burns and Allen, or Ab­bott and Costello, pitched an additional 13 years and won 164 games af­ter the surgery (com­pared to 124 wins be­fore).

Re­searchers, how­ever, in­cluded a caveat with their find­ings: “We do cau­tion look­ing too much into the im­proved stats for pitch­ers,” Dr. Anil Gupta, a paper co-au­thor and sur­geon with

the Florida Orthopaedic In­sti­tute in Tampa, said in a news re­lease. “We do not want to sug­gest Tommy John surgery is an op­tion for im­proved per­for­mance.”

Also, while the find­ings were pre­sented af­ter Jobe’s death, the study it­self was posted on the Amer­i­can Jour­nal of Sports Medicine web­site on Dec. 18. Jobe, who was once called base­ball’s “ca­reer saves leader” in a Chicago Sun-Times head­line, was hon­ored last sum­mer by the Base­ball Hall of Fame for his con­tri­bu­tion to the sport.

Tommy John re­con­nected with Jobe last year at Dodger Sta­dium.

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