The Nationals' star pitcher, Stephen Strasburg, has caused quite a stir in Major League Baseball (MLB) circles this year. Following his Tommy John surgery in 2010, wherein a ligament from elsewhere in his body was transplanted into his elbow, Strasburg's coaches decided that his season will end once he pitches a certain number of innings, in order to protect his still-recovering arm. With the number expected to be somewhere between 160 and 180, the deadline for Strasburg is fast approaching.
No one would know it from the way Strasburg is playing currently, though, as he has led the team to the top of the MLB with a 2.85 ERA. His spectacular performance in the face of conventional sports wisdom when recovering from a major surgery has prompted commentary from fans, sportscasters and team doctors alike.
Many teams rely on an inning limit when it comes to Tommy John surgery, though the exact number varies, while others don't.
The Cincinnati Reds team doctor, Timothy Kremchek told The Washington Post, "There is no book, no number, no magic, no 'You can pitch all the way until October.' Nobody knows that and many of us are afraid to take the chance with these guys."
Experts have said that there isn't an exact science currently. No studies have been conducted to test the correlation between innings pitched and re-injury, so the current mainstream strategy is trial and error.
Young players are also at risk for elbow injury, however the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine reported last year that both young athletes and their coaches are surprisingly unaware of contributing factors, including overuse and the number and type of pitches thrown.
The right baseball equipment can help to protect all players on the field, but it is important for parents and coaches to teach young athletes proper techniques and allow adequate recovery time if an overuse injury is suspected.