"Tommy John" Surgery On The Rise - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News


"Tommy John" Surgery On The Rise

At 21 years old, Derek Williford was enjoying his position as a college baseball pitcher.

During an April game, he noticed a sharp pain in his elbow caused by a torn ligament. The injury took him off the mound and landed him in the hospital.

Derek is having what's known as a 'Tommy John' surgery or UCL. It's one of just a handful performed in East Texas, but it's becoming more common among young baseball players.

Though there is no national data available, the leading institute for 'Tommy John' procedures says from 1995-1998 only 8% of UCL's were performed on high school students. From 2003- 2006 that number shot up to 24%.

Dr. Patrick Wupperman with Texas Spine and Joint in Tyler has performed 35 of the procedures during his career. He says many athletes end up pitching at the same level or better after their surgery, but the rehabilitation is a long and sometimes painful road.

"We tell people a year. For somebody like Joe, who's a little bit younger, it's probably a little less," says Dr. Wupperman.

Derek is hoping for a professional career one day, and he's confident the 'Tommy John' surgery will keep that dream alive.

Doctor's say the popularity of year round baseball is behind an increase in elbow injuries. They suggest young athletes should rest for two to three months out of the year and cross train in other sports to keep the body from becoming overworked.  For young pitchers, they say coaches should strictly enforce pitch counts.

Derek Williford is out of the hospital and is doing very well.

Lindsay Wilcox/Reporting: lwilcox@kltv.com


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