'Explosion' of Tommy John surgery, elbow injuries in young athletes

March 21, 2024

CHICAGO (WLS) — Doctors say more and more athletes are in need of Tommy John surgery for elbow injuries, a procedure previously reserved for professionals. 

Tony Cantelo, a high school senior, was told he needed Tommy John surgery 11 months ago.

Specialists from Midwest Orthopedics at RUSH University Medical Center are concerned about what they called an explosion of cases. Tony's doctor, Dr. Mark Cohen, is also a White Sox team physician. He said a third of all major league pitchers have had Tommy John surgery.

"There's just been an explosion of these injuries in these throwing athletes, and there's a variety of factors but it's almost at a point where it's an epidemic," he said.

Dr. Cohen said the fastest growing segment of patients needing Tommy John surgery are 15- to 19-year-olds. He said the common theme is overuse from single sport specialization and year-round throwing.