Atlanta finding success at beating Tommy John surgery

Tim Hudson

Nathan Denette

The way Braves left-hander Alex Wood figures, doctors have pretty much licked this reconstructive elbow surgery thing for baseball players.

“It’s about as close to perfected as you can get,” said Wood, who had the procedure at the end of his senior year of high school and made his big-league debut last week. “Really the only question these days is when stuff happens with your shoulders. I am sure one day somebody will probably find an answer (to that), and they will become very wealthy. They’ve got one of two (figured out) so now searching for that other one.”

Wood’s attitude is the prevalent one among baseball players when it comes to ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction surgery.

The success rate in recent years among pitchers who have had the procedure, which is better known as Tommy John surgery, is about 85 percent. Players are confident they can come back if they follow what generally is a 12- to 16-month rehabilitation plan.

That’s the silver lining for the Braves, who have two pitchers on the disabled list after Tommy John surgery last month (Eric O’Flaherty and Jonny Venters) and another close to returning (Brandon Beachy). Four pitchers on the staff have made successful comebacks from the procedure: Tim Hudson, Kris Medlen, Venters and Wood.

“Fortunately, the success rate is really, really improved over the years,” Hudson said. “They pretty much have it down to a science. Even though it stinks and you don’t want to deal with it, there’s a really, really good chance you are going to come back as good, if not better.”

We talked to the four Braves who made comebacks from Tommy John surgery about their injury, the rehabilitation, when they felt like they were back to normal and what advice they offer to other players who have the surgery.