Tommy John at 13


#1

Wow, I had heard earlier but couldn’t believe, but now have confirmed, that a now-league-age-14-year-old (he might still be 13) pitcher my son played against in Little League had Tommy John surgery this past August. This guy played a lot of baseball during the year, and threw a lot of curve balls. His pitching coach was of the school that curve balls “thrown right” are safe for kids. I never bought into it and don’t let my 13-year-old throw curves. I stick by what my old man taught me: “When you shave, you can start throwing curves.”


#2

A kid from the Curacao LL team that played in the LL World Series a number of years ago also had TJ surgery. Couple poor mechanics with overuse and, maybe, too many supinated pitches and, well, there’s a recipe for disaster.


#3

HOLY ------!!! What in tarnation is going on here? Kids not even hitting puberty are having the TJ surgery? Next thing you know, third graders will be having it. And what are parents, physicians, coaches and what-not doing about it? Not a bleeping thing. The whole problem lies with inadequate coaching, lack of supervision, misuse and abuse of those kids on the mound, and who is doing anything about it? ZILCH. They should set a minimum limit—say 12 or 13—and hope. :x


#4

That was my reaction too … :shock: … When he had the TJ surgery back in August he was probably still 13. 13!


#5

Organized baseball will ruin your kids arm. The deeper you get involved the sooner it will happen. If you think you can minimize it by counting pitches, teaching this or that mechanic or limiting curveballs…you should be writing a book and putting a halt to all this crap. But the fact is all complex systems are inherently unpredictable.

Here’s a little known secret…it is possible to enjoy the game and not be on the mound 24-7. You don’t have to travel a hundred miles either…there is a ball field within walking distance. The whole fam damily doesn’t have to be at that hotel the night before, you don’t have to wear five hundred dollars worth of equipment, an ex pro don’t have to be your paid mentor and your room at home doesn’t have to be filled with first of everything balls and runner up trophies.

Mom doesn’t have to drive you to every tournament, videotape your performance, categorize them on YouTube and email them to all the D1 coaches within 500 miles.

But if you have your kid do the organized baseball pitching thing…save yourself some time and check your healthcare plan network for the participating surgeon near you and put him/her in your contacts. You’ll likely need it.

Did you know scientists can’t predict when a growing sand pile will collapse? The future can be predicted but the timing and details are totally unknowable.


#6

[quote=“Dino”]Organized baseball will ruin your kids arm. The deeper you get involved the sooner it will happen. If you think you can minimize it by counting pitches, teaching this or that mechanic or limiting curveballs…you should be writing a book and putting a halt to all this crap. But the fact is all complex systems are inherently unpredictable.

Here’s a little known secret…it is possible to enjoy the game and not be on the mound 24-7. You don’t have to travel a hundred miles either…there is a ball field within walking distance. The whole fam damily doesn’t have to be at that hotel the night before, you don’t have to wear five hundred dollars worth of equipment, an ex pro don’t have to be your paid mentor and your room at home doesn’t have to be filled with first of everything balls and runner up trophies.

Mom doesn’t have to drive you to every tournament, videotape your performance, categorize them on YouTube and email them to all the D1 coaches within 500 miles.

But if you have your kid do the organized baseball pitching thing…save yourself some time and check your healthcare plan network for the participating surgeon near you and put him/her in your contacts. You’ll likely need it.

Did you know scientists can’t predict when a growing sand pile will collapse? The future can be predicted but the timing and details are totally unknowable.[/quote]

Dino - Always love your comments. The curve ball is god at the youth/HS level. Bow down and worship it, and your kid gets to pitch and get rocked, I mean, er, a “rock” star. A sure recipe to sit on the end of the bench and do pitch count is to throw a hard, moving 2-seamer that the catcher can’t handle. It’s a reason why talented kids like basketball and lacrosse more than baseball.


#7

So true. My son just finished his last Little League All Stars this past summer. His team won the District Tournament but lost in the Sectional Tournament (no Williamsport :cry:). In the District and Sectional tournament games, I saw a lot of pitchers, and every one threw curveballs, lots of curveballs. Except my son, who threw only four seam fastballs and change ups, and yet still managed an ERA of 0.00 for All Stars.


#8

UPDATE: I spoke to his pitching coach and he confirmed that, yes, when the kid had the TJ surgery back in August he was in fact still 13. :shock:


#9

Did his pitching coach offer any insight of his opinion of the cause?


#10

Did his pitching coach offer any insight of his opinion of the cause?[/quote]
Yes. I asked him an open question, “Wow, how does that happen at 13?” He said he thought the kid “threw too much”. Naturally, he didn’t say anything about the “curveballs-that-don’t-cause-injury-if-thrown right” that he taught the kid at 10.


#11

Did his pitching coach offer any insight of his opinion of the cause?[/quote]
Yes. I asked him an open question, “Wow, how does that happen at 13?” He said he thought the kid “threw too much”. Naturally, he didn’t say anything about the “curveballs-that-don’t-cause-injury-if-thrown right” that he taught the kid at 10.[/quote]

Could be possible the kid threw too much. Know of a couple around here that had arm problems at an early age and overuse was the issue, neither threw curves at a young age. Both had portable mounds in the backyard and threw bullpens pretty much every day. One had a cracked growth plate at age 12 and the other had TJ at 15. Another had TJ at 16; dad thinks it was the extra “torque” he tried to put on his curve. Not sure when he starting throwing them but was younger than the other two.


#12

He did. He threw year round. But, he also threw a lot of curves. By 11 he had mastered the curveball, and threw it often in our Little League games. By 12 he was striking out half our Little League batters. He is in fact exactly the type of kid Dr. Kremchek of the Cincinnati Reds described in this New York Times article:

[quote]Dr. Timothy Kremchek, an Ohio orthopedic surgeon who is the Cincinnati Reds’ physician and whose practice frequently treats youth pitchers, called Little League’s stance [on curveballs] irresponsible.

“They have an obligation to protect these 12-year-old kids and instead, they’re saying, ‘There’s no scientific evidence curveballs cause damage, so go ahead, kids, just keep throwing them,’” Kremchek said. “It makes me sick to my stomach to watch the Little League World Series and see 12-year-olds throwing curve after curve. Those of us who have to treat those kids a few years later, we’re pretty sure there is a cause and effect.”

Kremchek said he performed 150 elbow ligament reconstructions a year, a complex operation named after the former major league pitcher Tommy John, who had the surgery when it was developed in the 1970s.

“Seventy percent of those surgeries are pitchers who haven’t hit college yet,” Kremchek said. “I ask each one the same question: When did you start throwing curveballs? And they say: ‘I was 10. I was 11.’ Sometimes, it’s 9.”[/quote]


#13

I understand what you’re saying but still think a lot can be due to overuse. The one kid we know that had TJ at 15 didn’t throw a curve until about 14 but pitched off a mound almost everyday. The other kid who had TJ at 16 threw a curve much younger but not sure how young. Kid who cracked growth plate at 12 never threw a curve but pitched off a mound almost every day. My son went back to local league in spring at 13 due to no school ball and no early travel tournaments, played travel in summer when league was finished. I can honestly say overuse was a bigger issue in leage than travel. Teams were lucky to have two decent pitchers and another kid or two to get it over the plate. Association had pitch count & inning limits but required rest times based on pitch counts were a joke. In addition; everything reset each week making it possible to throw 95+ pitches in two separate games over three days (200 pitches +or-). Had conflicts with sons coaches both years when I wouldn’t allow what was permissible by rule. There was also no ramifications for using a pitcher more than the rules allowed; opposing coach could protest and pitcher removed but no penalty. Opposing coaches many times didn’t keep up with it so rules were broken & kids overused. Even by rule; two 95 pitch outings in three days was OK! I do think the rules were revised and perhaps a little more conservitive now than they were then. Shame of it is most parents & coaches didn’t seem to know better. Not discounting the idea curve balls may be better off left alone by younger kids, just think overuse is a bigger issue.


#14

Here’s a story of a kid I coached for two years in a row. He had a good 3/4 delivery with decent (average to just a bit above average) velocity for his age of 10 years. He came into the next season, at age 11, trying to throw sidearm. He had practiced it with his father during the off-season. My first comment was, “What did you do to your delivery!?” His response was, “I get more movement on my pitches this way.” He had me shaking my head because his delivery looked painful. He said he was comfortable throwing like that. I even showed him video of his arm that looked like a large dog was trying to wrench it from its socket as he threw the ball. He was undeterred. I worked with him to try to show the difference between the two deliveries by having him throw a few of each. He was unconvinced. He was even throwing the same way from SS or CF where he had always had an overhand throwing motion in the past. I let him continue to pitch within the leagues pitching guidelines because that’s what he loved to do and he was effective. He also made more throwing errors than in the past, but still I could not convince him or his father to attempt to revert his delivery even when he began to notice discomfort in his elbow. I now decided he was not going to pitch until he could do so without discomfort.

The next spring I did not select him for my roster (each year we start teams from scratch with no carry-over because the league has determined there is a better balance that way). By the time I had selected two pitchers he was no longer available in the 3rd round. He had fair success and was pitched with regularity by his coach who had convinced him that having discomfort after the game was normal and that’s why God created ice. (another topic for later) That summer, playing AAU ball, he exploded his elbow. He took the Fall, Winter, and Spring completely off and started Summer ball throwing from his 3/4 slot, but his motion looked muted. He was clearly hesitant to really test his arm, but he wasn’t throwing in pain. He did not pitch at all, as advised by his doctor.

I ran into him at the practice field this past summer, 3 years removed from the incident. He is still throwing from his original slot and seems to have developed more confidence in the health of his elbow. He is pitching again and is throwing with average velocity. He could have been an above average pitching talent had he not made a bad decision to go against his natural pitching motion in an attempt to get movement on the ball that isn’t even necessary pitching at the pre-teen level. Just throwing strikes will make any pitcher have solid performance.

At least he’s still playing ball. His father never told me specifically that he had TJ surgery but I suspect that he did.

Another kid who was extremely advanced in velocity and control messed up his labrum and had to play baseball throwing with an underhand pendulum swing. His bat was amazing as well. He hit a home run about every 3rd at bat and he even was selected to the All-star team without being able to throw a ball. He hit 10 homeruns in 4 games of the first tournament. I had never seen anything like it. The coach played him at 1B and CF. Other teams tried to take advantage of his inability to throw but the coach had instructed the other players well. The pitcher would run over to first on grounders to accept an underarm toss and make plays on runners trying to go 1st to 3rd on the bad arm. The middle infielders would venture way into the outfield to initiate relay throws. I never noticed where teams were able to get an extra base either way. If anything, I think it helped them entice the opponents into poor running decisions. This kid has been playing lacrosse for the past two years and he was probably the number one baseball talent in town. It’s a real shame.


#15

Alright, I hated on the organized baseball earlier. Now I’m going to throw our junk food industry under the bus. How many fat and out of shape kids do you see attempting to be athletic. Maybe it’s the conditioning of these kids that accelerates their approach to injury. Most of the food they consume is processed combinations of fat, sugar, salt and msg. Washed down with Coke, Pepsi or a sugary sports drink.

Obesity in kids is an epidemic. Just another piece of the puzzle.

As Mark Twain said,
“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you in trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

It’s a complex problem.


#16

Truth!


#17

I respect you and your point of view but I must disagree somewhat.

It is not the food industry’s fault. They do not raise children.

It is the fault of the parent’s.

My mom and dad were well acquainted with the word no and they made sure I heard it frequently. We never had a soda at home. If we got one it was through the grandparents. They had forgotten no for us.

We ate at home and mom did not buy junk. Now I see many moms shoving junk down their kids throat and yanking them out of athletic practices to go watch somebody else play in a game.

I see a lot of kids, and the ones who move around and are encouraged to be athletic by their folks are fit and happy. The ones eating twinkies in front of the video screen are fat and soft.

The math is pretty easy.

I have two young sons myself and they get a well balanced diet, but in truth, they get more treats than I would like. But they are fit and strong because there is no TV during the week and less than an hour on weekends. Get them outside and moving.

They come home from school and play outside till dark. Do homework, eat, shower, go to bed. Even in the rain my youngest will go outside and pretend to play baseball (essentially doing NAPA throwing holds) until I make him come in.

If you want fit kids, turn off the TVs, video games and computers and get them outside or on an indoor court. They will be skinny and most likely happy in no time.

I do agree that processed food is an issue and parents should be more vigilant in seeing the kids get whole foods and limited plastic contact.

Best regards,

Ted


#18

[quote=“Ted22”]It is not the food industry’s fault. They do not raise children.
It is the fault of the parent’s. [/quote]

This is absolutely true. The parents are also to blame for many of the arm injuries of young kids. We’re talking about kids up to age 13 here and it’s the parents responsibility to make sure their kids are not overused (& eat healthy). If you believe breaking pitches are unsafe it’s your responsibility to not allow. I’m not sure these injuries are so much more prevalent among youth today as a few years ago; just easier to fix. Some kid several years back with a “blown out arm” might not be washed up now, could be another Tommy John surgery. Some of the injuries might not be anyone’s fault, just bad luck. Control what you can why you can; at some point it’ll all be out of your hands.


#19

Thankfully, I have graduated from raising children.

To be sure, the parents or parent or guardian has the final responsibility for securing the well being of their child but in the last thirty years the middle class or lower income have been exercising financial coping mechanisms that surrender those responsibilities to other people in their community with less incentive to protect.

What do I mean and what does this have to do with TJ surgeries for 13 year olds?

I mean to say that during the period of say the end of WWII until about the late 70’s there was usually a mother or perhaps a grandmother in the home directing the family meals. Whole foods, locally raised, without additives and not dominated by processed imitation food. That changed and mom went to work. The food industry saw an opportunity to capture some new money. The TV dinner was invented.

When two standard week incomes wasn’t enough…both parents worked longer hours. Less time for family directed planning. No leadership.

When more hours couldn’t keep the bills paid…they took out loans and more and more debt. And still after all that today’s low to middle class families are earning the same relative buying power that they had when one person worked back in the day.

There’s no time to direct little Johnnys life. Or they may view Johnny more as a potential asset than as a responsibility.

So I’m defending the parents a little here from capitalists and entrepreneurs who take advantage of the precarious situations today’s families face. I speak of those without a moral compass? They exist in the food industry’s and they exist in the world of amateur youth baseball.

The next big bubble to burst will be athletic scholarships. The easy money is being shut off to colleges as more and more student loans default. Soon the baseball programs will start feeling the pressure and their will be less incentive for at least that part of the overuse excuse.

The only reason left to run Johnny out on the mound everyday will be personal vanity.


#20

Dino,

I agree much more than disagree. The natural pressure from capitalism tends towards excessive consumerism. This leads to more required income. Early on we made a decision that one parent would be home with the kids. It has cost us much in retirement funds. To compensate I taught my oldest how to change speeds at ten. I then taught him the proper way to throw a curveball at eleven. Now a small percentage of his inevitable hall of fame professional career will serve as our retirement income. What could possibly go wrong?

An interesting side point is the possibility that ligament structures are simply not of the quality they once were due to lowered food quality and exponentially increased chemical exposure. Somewhat like the fertility counts of men being roughly 2/3s of what their grandparents were. I doubt it though. I think the lost arms of yesterday are largely forgotten and the ability to fix the vast majority of issues today has actually raised the conversation of what was previously not spoken of.

Best regards,

Ted