Tommy John uncomfortable over surgery being added to dictionary
Merriam-Webster recently announced that the term “Tommy John surgery” will be officially added to its dictionary’s database.
While Tommy John feels oddly honored over the addition of the surgery that bears his name to the dictionary, he feels somewhat conflicted over how the procedure has become so common with today’s young athletes.
“In one way, it’s very flattering,” John recently told the New York Post. “It’s better to have an orthopedic surgery than a venereal disease named after you. But in another way, how did this surgery get so rampant that it became this commonplace?”
John, now 75, was the first person to undergo the procedure — described by Merriam-Webster as when a “torn ulnar collateral ligament of the elbow is replaced with a tendon graft typically obtained from a superficial muscle of the forearm” — in 1974 and was able to pitch after the procedure for another 14 years.
As noted by The Post, a 2015 study found that 56.7% of all Tommy John surgeries are performed on 15-to-19-year-olds. John argues that should set off an alarm for parents about over-specialization in youth sports.
“A lot of parents think, ‘I want my son to be the next Clayton Kershaw or Jacob deGrom, and I want him to have the surgery to play harder,’” John said. “Parents are living their lives vicariously through their children.
“Take specialization out and let them play. When we were done in August, we would put away the baseballs and play basketball until the winter was over.”
John’s joke about having a surgery named after you is better than having your name forever affiliated with a venereal disease is certainly a quality one.
That said, his broader point on how too many teenagers are having to undergo the procedure being an ominous sign ought to resonate and be heeded by parents and coaches who are ultimately responsible for steering young athletes in the right direction.