Yankees doctor warns MLB restart plan brings Tommy John risk

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A normal spring training is six weeks long to get pitchers ready for the grind of a six-month season, which is three weeks more than position players require.

Now, with the prospect of a shortened spring training in June in front of games maybe beginning in July, Yankees team doctor Chris Ahmad has raised the possibility that Tommy John surgeries may increase. The recovery time from the surgery is 12-18 months.

“Year after year I have observed a consistent spike in Tommy John surgeries in the spring compared to other months/seasons,’’ Ahmad wrote on Medium. “The reasons behind the spikes are related to some combination of the sudden start of play, rapid competition intensity, lack of early season physical conditioning, lower preparation coming from offseason, not yet fully optimized throwing mechanics and playing with elbow pain.’’

Pitchers keeping problems to themselves doesn’t help, either.

“Many players after the long off-season waiting period are unwilling to disclose elbow pain or acknowledge their lack of preparation fearing they will be shut down right away,’’ Ahmad wrote.

Ahmad, who has been performing Tommy John surgeries for 20 years and is in his 12th season as the Yankees’ team doctor, advised players on every level of baseball to develop a throwing program as preparation for a season that has been put on hold everywhere due the coronavirus pandemic.

“Progressive throwing and building up arm strength while exposing the body to incremental stress can greatly reduce injury when baseball resumes,’’ Ahmad wrote.

Some big leaguers have mounds and workout facilities at their homes but others don’t, which leads to finding alternate ways to throw.

The Yankees are familiar with Tommy John surgery during spring training, as right-hander Luis Severino underwent the procedure Feb. 27 after being examined by Dr. David Altchek, who did the surgery, and Ahmad. Boston’s Chris Sale and the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard also had spring Tommy John surgeries.

Severino complained of soreness when throwing his change-up in spring training and underwent three days of testing.

Yankees
Yankees’ team doctor Chris AhmadCharles Wenzelberg/New York Post

After two MRI exams and a CT scan during the offseason didn’t uncover a torn UCL, Severino underwent a nerve-conductor test, which was negative, and a CT scan, which also was negative. However, a dye contrast MRI, otherwise known as a MRI arthrogram, discovered a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament.

General manager Brian Cashman believed the issue dated to Severino saying his forearm was sore after Game 3 of last year’s ALCs against the Astros. The soreness vanished and Severino was slated to pitch Game 7 had the Yankees not been eliminated in Game 6.

“My gut is that it dates back to when he started feeling something. The MRIs and the area where the complaints were, it didn’t reveal itself,’’ Cashman said on Feb. 25. “Now, testing points to an area on the MRI arthrogram that shows a problem. The prior MRIs had no problem and the point of injury was not around the ligament. Our athletic trainers, our physical therapists and the orthopedists that evaluated both in Tampa and New York did not produce anything that typically gives a concern about a ligament issue in any way, shape or form.’’

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