Archive for Thursday, June 19, 2003

Opinion: Pitcher gets career threatening news

June 19, 2003

I was sitting in my bedroom this Tuesday when I received some horrible news. Basehor-Linwood's ace starting pitcher, Jeremy Sheehan, has a career threatening injury.

A recent MRI showed torn ligaments in his elbow, and if he wants to pitch again he must go through what is known as Tommy John surgery.

The surgery is followed by a year-long layoff, and though the coaches at Cowley County have not decided yet, Sheehan will likely lose his scholarship for next year at least.

The signs of an injury, though not of this magnitude, were there. Early in the season, Jeremy complained of arm pain, but he continued to pitch many innings.

At the time, BLHS coach Curtis Press, a pitcher himself, thought the pain was in Jeremy's head, and as an outsider, I did not hear anything else about it until after the season. So, I thought the story was done.

I mean the guy was still winning games, so how could there be an injury that bad?

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for pitchers to throw through pain for weeks before they realize something serious is wrong.

However, those watching Jeremy closely knew something was wrong. His fastball had lost its pop, and while he was still winning games, he was not as dominant as he had been in the past.

The season finally ended with a loss to Bishop Ward in the regional finals and that gave Jeremy a chance to rest his arm.

But as it turned out, rest would not make this injury better. The doctor explained his options, and having surgery was the only option that allowed him to pitch again.

Pitchers are at risk for this type of injury because the mechanics they use to pitch are unnatural. The awkward arm movements create wear and tear on the ligaments.

I'm not trying to dwell on the negatives of all this and whether it could have been prevented. Instead, I'd like to focus on the positive aspects.

Tommy John surgery, the surgery Jeremy needs, has become famous for its success stories. If the Sheehans are able to take the surgery route, Jeremy will likely pitch again.

The surgery is named after a former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher who had a torn ligament in his elbow, similar to Jeremy's injury. But in 1974 there was no known surgery that would repair the damage.

John was not about to quit pitching so he told doctors to make something up --omething that would fix his arm.

At John's request, Dr. Frank Jobe made up one of the most successful surgeries today.

Jobe actually replaced the damaged ligament with a practically useless tendon in his arm.

After a year of rehab, John went on to win 170 more games in the major leagues and a career-saving cure was invented.

Though the success rate of the surgery is not 100 percent, numerous pitchers have made full recoveries and have actually pitched better after having the surgery.

Right now, Jeremy will have to decide if Tommy John surgery is right for him. But either way, it is a shame it had to happen to him because you can tell he is passionate about pitching.

Good luck, Jeremy. I hope to see you back on the mound.

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