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The Pitcher as Science Project

Wall Street Journal– Chris Carpenter is a pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals.  If you consider the medical investment that has been made in keeping him on the mound, he would be an equal fit as pitchman for the American Medical Association.  Carpenter is a great pitcher, and he leads the league in surgeries. Six is the number he has undergone thus far in his career.  Two operations on his right shoulder, and the rest on his elbow.

Instead of calling him a great post-season pitcher, some are joking that he’s really a $15 million collaborative science experiment.  If “science experiment” is applicable, “science success” is more so.  Carpenter isn’t simply heading toward retirement as the sun sets on his throwing days.  After the surgeries, therapies, and coaching, Carpenter lead the National League with over 237 innings pitched and 11 wins.  In fact, each surgery seems to improve his throwing.  He won the National League’s Cy Young Award in 2005, and lead the Cardinals to a World Series win in 2006.

Carpenter isn’t the first post-op player to have a great post-season, but the quantity of surgeries is remarkable.  In fact, on his elbow surgeries, the doctors went in the existing scars so they didn’t create additional wounds.  Since some of the surgeries are minimally invasive or arthroscopic, the bodily trauma and recovery time are greatly reduced.  Still, let’s not brush aside the number of operations Carpenter has undergone.

Dr. Timothy Kremchek of Beacon Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine remarked, “I’ve been doing this a long time and I can’t remember another major-league pitcher who has survived that many surgeries on his arm—two, maybe three, but not six.”

Pitching Coach for the Cardinals, Dave Duncan, contributes just as much of Carpenter’s success to the pitcher’s willpower as he does to modern medicine.  Duncan elaborated, “To have to go through it again after having gone through it once before, is really a difficult thing to do. To do all the rehab he’s had to do, he’s very strong mentally.”

When asked about his motivation, Carpenter replied that his greatest fear was having to find another job.  If he stops pitching at some point, he can always become the spokesperson for the American Medical Association.

Read the full story from the Wall Street Journal by clicking here.