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Will Non-Surgical Methods Help Matt Harvey’s Elbow Pain?

To read the full story by Amanda Comak as featured in the Washington Times, please click here.

At the age of fifteen, Drew Storen got a chance to meet Reds Team Medical Director Dr. Timothy Kremchek.  It was then that Storen learned how unnatural the mechanics of pitching a baseball really are.  Dr. Kremchek told him that anytime a pitcher throws over 88 miles per hour, he is “essentially red-lining” his ulnar collateral ligament.  It is this repetitive, unnatural motion that leads to ligament tears and other elbow pain.  Although there are many non-surgical options for injury management, the ultimate solution to the problem is a ligament repair, or Tommy John surgery.

The next question becomes how to prevent elbow pain.  Since the primary culprit is overuse, it is important that pitchers learn to stop when necessary.  If that means limiting innings, counting pitches, or simply recognizing fatigue and acting appropriately, avoidable elbow injuries are often the result of overuse.  The concept young pitchers need to grasp is that pitching through fatigue ultimately leads to surgery, recovery, and suffering through time in the minor leagues.  Instead of undergoing this lengthy, painful cycle, it would be better for players to learn recognize fatigue and rest accordingly.

In the case of rising star Matt Harvey of the New York Mets, who has been experiencing elbow pain, an MRI revealed a tear in his ulnar collateral ligament.  Although there may be some temporary fixes to get him back on the mound, ultimately, surgery will be necessary.  That means a year off recovering, probably some time in the minors, and then, eventually, if all goes well, being added back into the Mets’ rotation.

The thing about Harvey is his youth.  The conversation is shifting more toward protecting the young arms in the league from overuse injuries before their first contracts expire.  Even though Harvey has been undergoing preventative treatments since spring training for his elbow pain, it hasn’t fixed the problem.  While many pitchers go through a physical therapy regimen every day, sometimes it isn’t enough to compensate for the impact pitching has on the body.