As the pitch count adds up throughout his career, so does the strain on a pitcher’s arm and specifically, the elbow.
Keene State College baseball players have experience an increase in surgeries due to a gradual upswing in injuries over the past decade.
In 2012, three pitchers from KSC sustained similar injury to the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in the throwing elbow. A tear in the UCL typically calls for a complete reconstruction or replacement of the ligament with a familiar procedure known to sports fans as “Tommy John Surgery.”
According to ESPN.com, the first UCL reconstruction came in 1974 to a Major League Baseball pitcher named Tommy John. Dr. Frank Jobe performed the surgery. Since then, the injury has become more apparent in baseball players, specifically younger pitchers.
Owls Head Coach Ken Howe believes the UCL tear happens to guys who throw the ball harder than others. “Throwing a baseball is such an unnatural act,” Howe said. “It’s the guys that are [throwing at] 85 to 95 miles per hour. A lot of it is mechanical as well, if they drop their arm too early and such. It’s a combination of velocity and mechanical issues that cause it.”
Senior left-handed pitcher Eric Perrault is one of the Owl pitchers who sustained a UCL tear during an outing in recent years at KSC. Perrault actually predicted that his injury would take place. Due to having high hopes of playing baseball after college, he was glad it happened sooner than later. “I anticipated it [the injury] coming for a little bit. I knew it was going to happen but it was a matter of when,” Perrault said. “In a way it was a blessing in disguise.”
Perrault, who receives attention from Major League Baseball scouts and other interested ball clubs, went to see the most well-known sports surgeon in the United States. “I went down to Florida to see Dr. ([ames]Andrews,” Perrault said.
Andrews has been a premiere sports surgeon for all sorts of surgeries to various athletes. “The day after surgery I was doing exercises already, it was a rigorous recovery,” Perrault said.
Fellow teammate Spencer Hutchinson is a right-handed pitcher who has had a longer road of recovery that took him nearly two seasons. “It happened right when my arm got to the 90-degree angle,” Hutchinson said. “I was just trying to get through the inning after it hurt.”
Hutchinson went to the University of Connecticut Medical Center to get his surgery done. “The surgery wasn’t bad, but the cast after was terrible; your arm is locked for nearly two months,” Hutchinson said. “It wasn’t until about seven months from after the surgery where I picked up a baseball to start throwing.”
The third pitcher to need UCL surgery was Dan Wogksch but left KSC due to graduation.
“I started throwing from 10-15 feet away and went from there over time,” Hutchinson said.
“There was a lot of rehab right away,” Perrault said. “From April 17 to August 17, then I started throwing.”
Coach Howe believes that a lot of guys coming back from Tommy John surgery in fact throw harder than they did prior. However, both Perrault and Hutchinson agreed that they came back from the surgery with nearly the same strength. “I feel like I am a little bit more controlled than I was before the surgery,” Hutchinson said.
Rehabilitation from the surgery is the primary reason players come back to 100 percent strength. “Our trainers do a great job with it. We have guys that come back from surgery with programs and we stick to protocol that are proven to be effective,” Coach Howe said. “You look at Eric’s [Perrault] rehab, he came back a little bit quicker than [Hutchinson] not because he didn’t work at it. It was because of the two different surgeons and what they were used to.”
“No arm pain at all,” Perrault said. “It’s the best my arm has ever felt.”
“Here [Keene State College] we are on a time constraint, we’ve only got four years unlike in the pros where you can take years to come back,” Howe said. “The clock is ticking, kids are in school and have to graduate and move on but we are happy to have those two kids [Hutchinson and Perrault] back.”
Brian Schnee can be contacted at