Tommy John surgery used to be considered career ending but with the advancements in surgery and rigorous therapy a pitcher is approximately 85% likely to make a full recovery according to Leading baseball surgeon Dr. James Andrews.
So, if it’s not Tommy John injury that’s most likely to end a pitchers career then what is it???
The labrum. That’s right, a tiny little piece of fibrous tissue that that surrounds the shoulder socket. It helps stabilize the joint. It also serves as an attachment site for several ligaments. The labrum is a lot like a golf tee holding a golf ball in place. The labrum hold the humerus (upper arm) to the body. It keeps the shoulder from popping out of joint or dislocating.
“If pitchers with torn labrums were horses, they’d be destroyed.” – Slate Magazine
Injuries to the labrum could be as a result of falling on an outstretched hand, forceful lifting or repeated overhead motions (such as throwing).
The symptoms of a tear in the shoulder socket rim are very similar to those of other shoulder injuries.
Mechanical Symptoms such as catching, locking, popping, or grinding.
Pain at night or pain with daily activities.
Feelings of instability in the shoulder (i.e.: like the shoulder is going to “pop out”)
Limited range of motion
“Nothing taxes a shoulder like throwing a baseball. Even if a pitcher has an ideal throwing motion, the labrum suffers.”-slate magazine
If surgery is required it will typically be done via arthroscopy through a few tiny poke holes for the instruments and camera. The doctor will examine the whole labrum and assess to either clean up the tear verses repairing the tear. Many labral surgeries are required due to mechanical symptoms or the feeling of instability in the shoulder. The surgeon will remove or repair the tear and would then tighten the shoulder socket to make it more stable.
By: Stephanie Jones