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Aching arms: Reconstructive surgeries on young athletes on the rise

Aching arms: Reconstructive surgeries on young athletes on the rise


Surgeries related to overuse elbow injuries – Tommy John surgery – are more common among youth athletes than previously believed, according to new research presented recently at the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine's (AOSSM) Annual Meeting.

"Our results showed that 15-19 year-olds accounted for 56.7 percent of the Ulnar Collateral Ligament Reconstruction (UCLR), or Tommy John surgeries, performed in the U.S. between 2007-2011,” said Dr. Brandon Erickson of the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and the study’s lead author. “This is a significant increase over time with an average increase of 9.12 percent per year."

Other interesting details from the study included that the southern region of the U.S. performed significantly more UCLR procedures than any other region with 53 percent. Most of the surgeries were also performed between April and June.

Fifty-eight percent of the procedures were performed in an outpatient hospital setting, 40 percent were performed at a surgical center and three percent were performed in an inpatient hospital setting.

"The research numbers suggest that more young athletes believe that having an UCLR procedure performed earlier in their career may lead to the big leagues or a scholarship, even though only one in 200 kids who play high school baseball will make it to the MLB,” Erickson said. “This paradigm shift needs to be evaluated further to help prevent overuse injuries in kids from the beginning of the season when most issues arise."

There were 695 males and 95 females involved in the analysis. Twenty to 24-year-olds accounted for the second highest incident rate at 22.2 percent.

Baseball Tommy John surgery Pitching Study Injury

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