Over at Bleacher Report, injury analyst Will Carroll has conducted an exhaustive and impressive study of current major-league pitchers and how many within their ranks have undergone Tommy John surgery. The results? Not exactly uplifting. Carroll writes:
One-third of current MLB pitchers have had Tommy John surgery. Of the about 360 who started the season, 124 share the all-too-familiar triangular scar.
How surprising is this number? It stunned me! In recent talks with baseball officials, none guessed more than the one-in-nine number I had often seen quoted over the last decade (and quoted myself). Worse, none of us had any idea when this change had happened or noticed the acceleration.
Anecdotally, it does seem that more and more pitchers are being prescribed reconstructive elbow surgery, and Carroll's numbers certainly back up the notion of a "TJ boom."
You need to read Carroll's entire piece, as he cites some interesting prior research and puts forth some possible explanations for what's going on. I'm no science-y scientist, but I sign on to the notion that overuse at the adolescent and pre-adolescent levels is in large part to blame for what's happening to these pitchers, whether at the time and or some years down the line.
Whatever the reasons, though, 124 -- as mentioned, one-third of current MLB pitchers -- is an alarming number.