Why Are Youth Pitchers Getting Tommy John Surgery?: Spring Training Special (with Nikhil Verma, MD)
Your Doctor FriendsMarch 12, 2024

Why Are Youth Pitchers Getting Tommy John Surgery?: Spring Training Special (with Nikhil Verma, MD)

Baseball is back! Spring training cactus (and grapefruit!) leagues are in full swing, and the sports community is all abuzz with prognostications for the upcoming season.

Pop quiz, dear listener! Shohei Ohtani. Bryce Harper. Kerry Wood. Jose Canseco. Chris Sale. What do they have in common?

They're all Major League Baseball players, and they all (in addition to over 1,000 other MLB players) underwent Tommy John ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) surgery.

Until the last 10 years or so, orthopedic surgeons performed Tommy John/UCL reconstruction surgery almost exclusively on professional baseball pitchers. However, with increased specialization of younger athletes, and increased demands on young athletes' throwing arms, the rate of UCL elbow injuries has skyrocketed. Young athletes aged 17-22 are the most common group receiving this surgery.

Why?? Is blowing out your UCL "inevitable" in an overhead athlete? What factors come into play that increase risk of UCL tears? Can we prevent these injuries? How??

Thankfully we have brought our friend and colleague, and baseball injury specialist, Nikhil Verma, MD, to tease out everything "Tommy John"!

Dr. Verma is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon, specializing in sports medicine, and has worked at Midwest Orthopaedics at RUSH since 2004.

He is currently the head team physician for the Chicago White Sox (since 2017, taking over for one of our former guests, Dr. Chuck Bush Joseph), and is the director of the Sports Medicine division and is Program Director for the sports medicine surgical fellowship at RUSH. 

He has robust research and academic presence, with tons of publications under his belt, and he is an associate editor for the Arthroscopy Journal, and on the editorial board for the Journal of Knee Surgery. He is a member of numerous academic societies in orthopedics, sports medicine, and Major League Baseball. 

He also has been elected by his peers to “Best Doctors in America” every year since 2007, which is quite fitting as he is a wonderful human being and beloved colleague :)

He also recorded this episode with Your Doctor Friends while driving in his car on the way to the airport to fly out to Spring Training in Arizona to help out his beloved White Sox, now that's dedication!

Resources for today's episode include:

Dr. Verma's MOR website, his professional website, and his Instagram page!

A 2016 article in The Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine (featuring Dr. Verma as a collaborating author) titled "Ulnar Collateral Ligament Reconstruction: The Rush Experience".

MLB.com "Pitch Smart" program article titled "Tommy John FAQ" featuring legendary sports orthopedic surgeon, Dr. James Andrews.

A "Yankee Blue" article titled "Tommy John Is Not Related to Tommy John Underwear" :)

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