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The Arm by Jeff Passan

The name Tommy John surgery has become regular, commonplace expression in the language of baseball. Though Tommy John surgery is a nearly a medical miracle that has furthered the careers of countless ball players, Tommy John surgery is also a unique, elective hell many players must endure to find a few more good years in the game.

The Arm by Jeff Passan is an extensive look into the pitcher’s arm. Major League Baseball teams are willing to invest nearly a quarter of a billion dollars on arms (Clayton Kershaw, David Price, etc.), even though elite arms have predictable history of breaking catastrophically.

When we throw a baseball we put a lot of stress on the ligaments in our elbow. The over hand throwing motion is inherently flawed. The Ulnar collateral ligament or UCL takes on most of the stress. When this ligament breaks from the bone, a pitcher loses his ability to be effective. This is where Tommy John surgery comes into play. Named after the first pitcher to endure the surgery, a new ligament transplanted from somewhere else on the body (or someone else’s body) is attached in the shoulder to become a new UCL. This surgery is now expected for major league pitchers.

So besides the fact that professionals and college ball players are having expected extensive surgery that requires at least eighteen months to recover?

We have no clue how to stop the UCL from tearing.

Besides not throwing at all, there is no medical evidence that will reduce the chances of tearing an UCL. Teams spend billions on players and millions on prevention care, yet there is still no evidence.

All this talk about pitch counts? Useless. All this talk about curveballs at a young age? Nothing. All this talk about pitching motions and inverted W’s? Nope.

The Arm by Jess Passan is incredibly interesting. Not only does he cover the history and prevention of the surgery, he follows a couple of major leaguers taking the long, long road back to the majors.

Great book, if you love baseball, this needs to be in your library.