Tommy John surgery is a procedure previously only done with elite-level/professional baseball players in an attempt to repair damage done stemming from pitching. The surgery, once seen as radical, eventually became almost commonplace for MLB pitchers, with Dr. James Andrews becoming the poster-surgeon for the procedure. The benefits of the surgery were quite noteworthy, with most players being able to return to full strength and extend a career that otherwise would have ended.
Today, Tommy John surgery is still routinely performed with professional and college-level players, but the surgery is also being done on an alarming number of kids, too (and sometimes even before needed – as in an attempt to prepare for the inevitable). The thinking by some parents is that the surgery is a way to best prepare their youngster to play his or her best, and hopefully by doing so have a better shot at a college DI scholarship. Unfortunately this is very short-sighted thinking for a number of reasons:
- Kids bodies are still growing, and if a kid needs Tommy John surgery at age 10, you might be better off more closely examining how you got to that point in the first place (i.e. year-round training with few breaks?)
- Most surgeons will also talk about the caution needed when performing surgery on bodies still not completely through puberty – and the consequences of having a serious sport-performance surgery so young
- Even if your child has a surgery performed it in no way guarantees a future scholarship. With less than 5% of all high school athletes being able to compete at the college level, you can see the odds are long no matter what you do
- Parents need to check their own unfinished business — in all of my years of working with student athletes I have never once heard a kid want to get a surgery, but have heard many parents talk about the idea. Sometimes, but not always, this suggests the parents has his or her own unfinished business when it comes to sports.
In my opinion it should be only in rare and extreme instances where kids should be considered candidates for these kinds of surgeries. In fact, by keeping a normal, healthy, balanced sports schedule for your child you shouldn’t even need to consider these kinds of procedures.
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