Andrew Heaney headed for Tommy John surgery after stem-cell treatment fails
Heaney was hoping the stem-cell treatment would allow him to rehab his torn elbow ligament and avoid surgery
The Angels will officially be without one of their top young starters for the remainder of this season, and likely all of next season as well.
Thursday afternoon the Angels announced left-hander Andrew Heaney will indeed undergo Tommy John surgery. Here is the team's announcement:
Heaney, as well as rotation-mate Garrett Richards, had been hoping to avoid surgery by using a stem-cell treatment alternative. The regenerative therapy involves extracting bone marrow from the patient, concentrating it, then injecting it into the injured area.
Dr. Steve Yoon at the Kerlan-Jobe Clinic in Los Angeles performed the stem-cell treatment on Heaney (and Richards), but admitted the therapy is somewhat experimental.
"The gist of it is we don't fully understand how all of it works on a cellular level and how it works when you inject this material into an injured area," Yoon said. "But anecdotally, meaning through experience over the years, we've seen good things happen with these type of ejections, with this type of material."
Both Heaney and Richards only had partial tears of the elbow ligament, which is why they attempted to rehab the injury and avoid Tommy John surgery. A full tear is beyond repair. That automatically means Tommy John surgery.
A few players have successful rehabbed partial tears, but they are in the minority. Most notably, Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka rehabbed a partial tear in the second half of the 2014 season. He's thrown 258 2/3 innings with a 3.44 ERA (120 ERA+) since the injury and has had no further issues with the elbow.
Heaney, 25, was the ninth-overall pick in the 2012 draft by the Marlins. Miami traded him to the Dodgers in the Dee Gordon deal last offseason, then the Dodgers immediately flipped him to the Angels for Howie Kendrick. Heaney went 6-4 with a 3.49 ERA (110 ERA+) in 18 starts and 105 2/3 innings for the Halos last season, his rookie year.
The timing of the surgery likely means Heaney will miss the entire 2017 season in addition to the remainder of 2016. These days, clubs are giving players 14-15 months to rehab from Tommy John surgery, not 12 months like in the past. There's concern the recent rash of players needing a second Tommy John procedure is a result of rushing the rehab from the first surgery.
Heaney, who made only one start this season before getting hurt, underwent the stem-cell treatment several weeks before Richards, who is still attempting to rehab his torn elbow ligament.
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