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Outcomes of Tommy John Surgery

Players of all abilities have returned to the field after having a Tommy John Surgery. Historically, previous research has indicated that anywhere from 80 to 97 percent of professional athletes return to play. Meaning that if you played in the minor leagues prior to your injury, the odds are heavily in your favor to return to that level again, and potentially beyond. The long-term data has highlighted high postoperative satisfaction and return to play rates close to 83% across varying levels of competition

Return to Play Rates by Competition Level:

High School: 89-97%

College: 80 – 92 %

Professional: 80 – 97%

Recently, we conducted a study in which we looked at players’ return to sport rates in our office. We found that of our collegiate athletes, 85% returned to play at the collegiate level. 81% of pitchers observed completed their collegiate career or are still on active rosters. Our office has also observed an increasing number of players getting drafted to Major League teams who have undergone Tommy John Surgerys at both the high school and collegiate levels.

In this study, we found that there was no significant difference in pitching performance following Tommy John Surgery when compared to players that did not have surgery; a finding that solidifies the fact that players get back to pre-surgical competition levels. Furthermore, players in our study played in more games post-operatively than they did prior to surgery.

Does Tommy John Surgery affect your ability to get drafted?

Dr. Ahmad and colleagues published this study in The American Journal of Sports Medicine in 2018

Quick Facts

  • Background of research: There has been a dramatic rise in the annual number of Tommy John Surgeries performed in amateur baseball pitchers.
  • Research Question: The effect of prior Tommy John Surgery as an amateur on future professional success remains unknown.
  • Purpose: (1) Determine the number player in MLB draft that had Tommy John Surgery as an amature. (2) determine professional playing performance, and (3) to compare these results with those of matched controls (ie, drafted players who did not have Tommy John Surgery).
  • Methods: The MLB Amateur Draft Database was queried to identify all drafted pitchers who underwent Tommy John Surgery before being drafted. For each pitcher drafted from 2005 to 2014 with prior Tommy John Surgery, 3 healthy controls with no history of elbow surgery were randomly identified for matched analysis. A number of demographic and performance comparisons were made between these groups.
  • Results: A total of 345 pitchers met inclusion criteria.
    • The annual number of pitchers undergoing predraft Tommy John Surgeries rose steadily from 2005 to 2016 !
    • As compared with the non–Tommy John Surgery group, pitchers who underwent predraft Tommy John Surgery reached the MLB level with greater frequency (20% vs 12%, P = .003), and their MLB statistical performances were similar for all measures.
    • Compared with all other pitchers drafted during that period, players who had a predraft Tommy John Surgery demonstrated an increased likelihood of reaching progressive levels of play (Full Season A, AA, and MLB) within a given time frame.
  • Conclusion: The number of Tommy John Surgeries performed in amateur baseball players before the draft increased year over year. Professional pitchers who underwent Tommy John Surgery as amateurs appear to perform at least as well as, if not better than, matched controls without elbow surgery.

Dr. Ahmad's patients who have returned to the game at the highest level after Tommy John Surgery

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