Sports: Dustin May’s Elbow Injury Is A Microcosm Of Tommy John Surgery’s Grip On Young Athletes
by Aeden Alexander
On May 4, 2021, the Los Angeles Dodgers announced that right handed starting pitcher Dustin May would have to undergo Tommy John Surgery on his right elbow. The injury will result in May missing the remainder of the 2021 season, part of the 2022 season and being unable to throw a baseball for almost an entire year.
However, it isn’t the first time a top pitcher has had to lose the rest of his season for Tommy John surgery. In recent years, the numbers of pitchers needing Tommy John surgery have gone up significantly for many obvious reasons.
As baseball has evolved over time, higher pitch speeds and different pitch types have been phased into the game. In the 1980’s and 1990’s, it was amazing to see a pitcher throwing low to mid ninety miles per hour on their pitches. But nowadays, pitchers are throwing fastballs up to one-hundred and three miles per hour with an arsenal of four to five different pitch types.
For Dustin May, many sports analytics predicted his elbow injury would happen due to the arm angle he has while pitching. The commonality of Tommy John surgery has trickled down to the high school level, where many athletes find themselves needing the surgery.
Current Bosco Baseball varsity player Niko Riera team has gone through the Tommy John process and has had first hand experience with what it’s like.
Niko underwent the surgery in early 2020 and with the season getting canceled due to COVID-19, he was somewhat lucky he did not have to deal with missing too much baseball. Niko did return to baseball this year and has gotten the opportunity to return to pitching.
“When I found out I had to get Tommy John it really sucked, because at the time we didn’t know baseball was going to get cancelled so I was just thinking how much I would miss and fall behind,” said Niko.
One of the main results of this surgery is the amount of time it takes to recover and get therapy. Once you get the surgery, you are in a sling and cannot throw a baseball or anything at all for six to eight full months. During those months, you are slowly getting stronger as you have to do physical therapy.
“The recovery process sucked, not being able to do really anything was a bummer, to me that was the worst part of it, because yeah losing my season sucks, but being in a sling and not doing anything with my right arm for months was terrible,” said Niko.
One of the very few benefits of getting the surgery is the chance that once you do rehab and come back, you might have even more velocity when pitching due to having so much physical therapy and working from the ground up with your throwing arm. But, this isn’t the same for everyone, as in some, Tommy John surgery results in them ending their careers because their arm wasn’t able to handle all the stress put on it.
“For me at least I came back way stronger, I lost a little bit of command but that will come back over time, my fastball seems to almost jump out my hand way more. Also having new throwing mechanics helps and makes me feel comfortable as it is a scary thought of re-injuring my elbow again,” said Niko.
Many players don’t bounce back from something like this, and for a fellow Brave like Niko to be able to come back and be dominant on the mound and on the field is something special and great for the St. John Bosco Baseball team.