We’ve seen it happen time after time. A promising pitcher, sometimes not even a major leaguer yet, goes down. One pitch, one arm movement can cause a UCL tear, and when that happens, they need to get a complete repair to be able to throw. Twenty players underwent Tommy John surgery in 2016, and while that is significantly less than in the recent past, elbow injuries are a growing concern. When a player has his UCL repaired, the recovery time can take a year and a half. A lot of baseball can be missed. Now however, there is a new way to repair the ligament, that takes a much shorter time to heal.
A few months ago, Seth Maness, a former Cardinal/current free agent reliever became the first major league pitcher to undergoPrimary Repair. Not every torn UCL is suited for Primary Repair. Arms that qualify need a tear at an end of the UCL instead of in the middle. This way, they are repairing the same ligament that was torn instead of replacing it with a new one from elsewhere in the body.
Maness went under the knife in August, and is already playing catch. He is way ahead of schedule for Tommy John patients. Normally, a player who gets TJ wouldn’t even be considered candidates to return after a year, but Maness is expected to be at full strength by opening day, just eight months after surgery.
Maness will start throwing off of a mound this week. While he is currently unsigned, his 3.19 career era should grant him at minimum a minor league contract and invitation to major league spring training. We’ll have to see what happens with Seth Maness as he throws more, and puts more mileage on his arm. But he is back to throwing sooner than a pitcher who received Tommy John. Has Primary Repair been proven to restore a major leaguer to their past level of excellence? No. But as of right now, it’s the pitching surgery of the future. A shorter recovery is something we can all look forward to.
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