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Big league problem now impacting teen: Tommy John surgery

CINCINNATI (Jeff Hirsh) -- It's a fast-growing medical problem which hits teenaged boys and young men. 
But this problem is not caused by a bacteria or a virus.  The culprit is baseball.  Doing things wrong, or even doing things right too many times is a recipe for trouble.

Beacon Orthopaedic and Reds team doctor, Dr. Timothy Kremcheck, said, "And I want to call it in many cases an abuse of these young baseball players.  A couple of weeks ago I did 10 Tommy John's in one week. That's amazing."
Tommy john surgery was named for the Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher who had the first procedure back in 1974.  It saved his career.  Tommy John surgery fixes a torn ligament in the elbow

"And when you throw and you tear that ligament it has an incredible amount of pain.  You just can't throw any more.  You take a tendon from the forearm, fix it on the back table, drill holes, transplant it and make a new ligament here.  That's what Tommy John surgery is," said Dr. Kremcheck.

The problem is basically this: people pitch over and over and over again, starting as a kid, 8-9-10 years old.  Then high school and maybe a select team, then college and even in to the pros.  That's a lot of pitching, a lot of pressure, and a lot of chance for the arm to go bad.

22-year-old Kyle Hart is a Sycamore High School Graduate and a pitcher with the Indiana University Hoosiers.  Earlier this season he felt his arm pop.

"It got really real for me at that time.  I thought I don't have baseball any more. I thought, 'I'm done,'" said Hart.
But with Tommy John surgery and rehab, Hart should be back pitching some time next season.
Andrew Schmidt is a  17-year-old high school pitcher for Saint X and also for the Elite Cincinnati Mustangs.  Andrew knew he had a problem last year, but for a while, kept quiet and kept pitching.

"I just wanted to play and I felt if I said anything they'd take me out," said Schmidt.
Is there a solution?  Dr. Kremcheck says absolutely.  Playing no more than eight months a year, no curve balls before age 13, and a realization that you may feel fine at 15, but everything you've done for years  before could hit you hard at 20.

"We have got to put some sort of restrictions on competitive sports for our young kids.  Not only for physical well-being but mental.  They can't be kids anymore," said Dr. Kremcheck.

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