Media perceptions of Tommy John surgery

Phys Sportsmed. 2015 Nov;43(4):375-80. doi: 10.1080/00913847.2015.1077098. Epub 2015 Aug 26.


Objectives: The prevalence of medial ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) reconstruction is increasing in professional athletes and the delivery of baseball news by the media exerts a powerful influence on public opinion of the injury and surgery. The purpose of this investigation was to examine the media's perception regarding the causes of UCL injury as well as the indications, risks, benefits, and rehabilitation related to UCL reconstruction.

Study design: Cross-sectional survey study, Level 3.

Methods: This study utilized an online thirty-question survey designed to assess an individual's perception of UCL reconstruction with regard to risk factors for injury, indications, benefits, surgical details, and rehabilitation. Eligible study participants were members of the media including print, internet, radio and/or television directly involved in the coverage of Major League Baseball (MLB).

Results: A total of 516 members of the media with a mean age of 43.6 years completed the survey. In nearly half (47.8%), professional baseball represented 76-100% of their total sports coverage responsibility.

Indications: although the majority answered correctly, 45% did not know if an athlete needed an elbow injury as a prerequisite for UCL reconstruction and 25% believed the primary indication was performance enhancement. As percentage of baseball coverage increased, media members were less likely to believe that an elbow injury was not required (p = 0.038).

Benefits: eighty percent recognized that pitching speed is typically reduced following surgery, but the remaining 20% felt that velocities actually increased compared with pre-injury velocities. Return to play: fifty-two percent overestimated the ability of pitchers to return to back to professional baseball and 51.2% believed return would occur in 12 or less months. Estimates were higher in those of older age (p = 0.032) and increased percentage of baseball coverage (p < 0.001). Overuse injuries: less than half (48.4%) believed the use of pitch counts to be important in the prevention of UCL injury and 33.2% felt that throwing injuries were not preventable in adolescent baseball.

Conclusion: Common misconceptions exist regarding UCL reconstruction within the professional baseball media. Efforts for physicians to educate the media on the risks of overuse throwing injuries with emphasis on accurate indications, outcomes, and recovery of Tommy John Surgery are encouraged.

Keywords: Perception; Tommy John surgery; overhead athlete; ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arm Injuries / surgery*
  • Athletic Injuries / surgery
  • Baseball / injuries*
  • Collateral Ligaments / injuries
  • Collateral Ligaments / surgery*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / surgery
  • Elbow / injuries
  • Elbow Joint / injuries
  • Elbow Joint / surgery*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Media*
  • Middle Aged
  • Movement
  • Orthopedic Procedures*
  • Perception
  • Public Opinion
  • Return to Sport
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Ulna