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Dr. Tommy John Sees Impact Of Sports Specialization On Today's Youth

Dr. Tommy John carries a famous name. His father's name is carried by a career-saving surgery for baseball pitchers. But the son is concerned that this same surgery is becoming prevalent among teenagers, and he knows why this is so.

The younger John is a chiropractor, as well as a sports performance and wellness coach. He has come to believe that specialization and year-round play in sports is ruining the minds and bodies of children.

“The travel coaches force you to do what they want to do so that they can make money,” John's father told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “That’s where the system is wrong. What’s it going to take to change the system?"

Dr. John's father won 288 major-league games, many after becoming the first big-league pitcher to undergo a radical elbow surgery that transplated a ligament into his elbow to replace a damaged ligament.

Forever to be known as Tommy John surgery, it's estimated that over 400 MLB pitchers have successfully undergone the surgery.

What's alarming to John's son is the rising number of teenagers who've also been forced to undergo the same surgery. According to a 2014 study by the American Journal of Sports Medicine, 57 percent of Tommy John surgeries between 2007-11 were done on athletes between the ages of 15-19.

John places much of the blame on the culture of travel baseball and its extensive practices and scheduling, which puts athletes in danger of overusing their arms.

To combat this injury-prone one-sport culture, Dr. John wrote a book - Minimize Injury, Maximize Performance. His hope is that he can break this obsessive pattern of kids playing a solitary sport year-round in pursuit of the elusive dream of a pro career, or even a college scholarship.

John's research shows that between 1-4 percent of all high school-aged athletes will be good enough to earn a NCAA Division One scholarship.

In order to break this cycle of sports specialization, his message to parents is broken down into four parts - rethink, replenish, rebuild and recover.

Read the full story here.

Check out Dr. John's website here.

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